Hallmark Touts Itself as More Than Just a Christmastime Network

Showcases year-round programming strategy

Most TV companies are scaling down their upfront presentations, choosing to pitch buyers one-on-one instead of holding glitzy star-studded events. But one company went entirely the other way.

After spending the past few years pitching buyers on a personal basis, Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, held a full-blown upfront Wednesday night at 30 Rockefeller Center's famed Rainbow Room. After dinner and a roughly 40-minute presentation—which included Hallmark stars Lori Laughlin, Jack Wagner and James Denton as well as Kitten Bowl host Beth Stern and announcer Mary Carillo—buyers were treated to a performance by Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik.

While the event was light on new announcements, Hallmark took the opportunity to position itself as more than just a Christmas channel.

"We continue to build franchises and events that sync up with the Hallmark brand and retail calendar," Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, told the audience. "Rather than rely on one hit show or one franchise, we have created a 365-day experience."

In February, Hallmark has the Kitten Bowl—which will be in its fourth year during the 2017 Super Bowl—and two weeks of Valentine's Day programming. In the summer, Hallmark is branding "June Weddings" and "Summer Nights," which in 2017 includes one of Hallmark's new series, Chesapeake Shores.

Christmastime still remains Hallmark's bread and butter, however, and the network will have another new addition in 2016: It will broadcast the annual Christmas tree lighting in Washington, D.C.