Hallmark Greets News Ad Sales Chief

Nearly five months after Hallmark Channel ad sales chief Bill Abbott was bumped upstairs to president and CEO of parent company Crown Media, the network has realigned its sales staff.

Effective immediately, Edward Georger assumes the role of executive vp, advertising sales, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. Based in New York, Georger had previously served as senior vp, ad sales.

Having sold inventory for Hallmark for the better part of a decade, Georger is prized as an innovator. Along with Abbott, Georger in 2004 helped form Hallmark’s Sponsorship Solutions Unit, which creates customized and multiplatform opportunities for advertisers, while reducing clutter. He also opened the network’s Atlanta sales office.

Prior to joining Hallmark Channel, Georger held key positions at Family Channel and Fox Family Channel, where he was vp of Eastern Sales. Before that, he worked on the other side of the table as a media buyer at Backer Spielvogel Bates.  

As Georger takes on the top ad sales role, Cindy Kelly moves up to senior vp of national advertising sales. Kelly had been Hallmark Channel’s senior vp of New York sales and new media.

In a third move, long-time Viacom hand Stephanie Versichelli has come aboard as senior vp of Eastern sales. Versichelli had most recently served as vp of ad sales for MTV Networks, spearheading efforts for Comedy Central, Spike TV, TV Land and CMT.

Shortly after moving into Crown Media’s C-suite on May 31, Abbott began looking for his own replacement at the top of the ad sales chain. Because the departure of former Crown boss Henry Schleiff coincided with the (nominal) start of the 2009-10 upfront, Abbott pulled double duty, running the company while looking after Hallmark’s on-air inventory.

In the time Abbott’s hand was at the sales tiller, Hallmark’s ad revenues increased from $10.2 million in 2000 to $223 million a year ago. Last year, Hallmark Channel doubled its total cash flow to $62.7 million, per SNL Kagan data.

As the newly configured ad sales team gets ready for what may prove to be a robust scatter market, the network is looking to reverse a recent ratings slide. Hallmark Channel saw its third-quarter prime time delivery drop 24 percent to 984,000 total viewers, per Nielsen. Key female demos, including women 18-49 (down 19 percent) and women 25-54 (down 16 percent), also lagged.

Speaking on the company’s August 6 Q2 earnings call, Abbott told investors that ratings would be rocky for a time, as the network narrows its focus on women 25-54.