Upfront: No Scripted Series in the Cards for Hallmark


Despite the immediate impact a hit series can have on a network’s prime time ratings, Hallmark Channel in the near term has no plans to roll out an original scripted show. Instead, the independent cable outlet will build on its established strategy of delivering home-baked movie events while bulking up its daytime lifestyle programming block.

Speaking at Hallmark’s New York upfront luncheon, the network’s programming chief unveiled a slate of 25 original movies for 2011-12, the majority of which (15) will feature holiday themes. Another eight titles are slated for premiere on sibling net Hallmark Movie Channel.

“Original programs that celebrate holidays, family and all of life’s special moments are the centerpiece of Hallmark Channel’s programming schedule,” said Michelle Vicary, evp, programming, Crown Media Networks. Movies developed around Halloween, Christmas and other retail-friendly dates on the calendar not only draw ratings but also drive viewers to Hallmark Gold Crown’s 3,200 national storefronts.

Introduced in October 2009, Hallmark’s “Holiday Countdown” stunts are responsible for the channel’s largest deliveries. Christmas-themed movies are particularly reliable draws; for example, Hallmark’s Dec. 4 screening of the Christine Taylor flick Farewell, Mr. Kringle, served up 3.54 million viewers, roughly double the 1.68 million viewers the network averaged in prime throughout that same week.

Holiday movies also played a key role in boosting Hallmark’s ad sales revenues. In Q4 2010, the network took in $68.5 million in sales, an improvement of 13 percent versus its year-ago haul of $60.8 million. This marked the second consecutive gain in sponsor dollars in the wake of a seven-quarter slide.

Among the familiar faces that will appear in this year’s holiday film slate are: Teri Polo, Judd Nelson, Martin Mull, Rhea Perlman, Roger Moore, Catherine Bell, Bill Ray Cyrus and Hot in Cleveland’s Wendy Malick. The latter actress is of particular interest, as her series all but single-handedly turned around the fortunes at Viacom’s TV Land.

In June 2010, the month Hot in Cleveland premiered, TV Land’s prime time ratings soared 54 percent. In its first full month on-air, the comedy helped improve TV Land’s nightly deliveries by 69 percent.

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