Not in the Cards: Programming Chief Exits Hallmark

Two weeks after the sudden departure of Crown Media president and CEO Henry Schleiff, Hallmark Channel faces another defection in longtime programming chief David Kenin.

Effective May 31, Kenin will leave Hallmark Channel after a seven-year stint as executive vp of programming. While Crown Media did not offer an explanation for Kenin’s departure, with a new regime coming into power, it is likely that he was asked to step aside.

Until a permanent replacement is identified, senior vp, original programming Barbara Fisher and senior vp, acquisitions and scheduling Michelle Vicary will divvy up Kenin’s duties.

Since joining Hallmark Channel in 2002, Kenin has been instrumental in beefing up the network’s original programming efforts, developing family-friendly movies across an array of popular genres, including Westerns and mysteries. Last year Hallmark Channel enjoyed its best ratings since it launched back in August 2001, averaging 1.34 million viewers in prime-time, good for tenth place among all ad-supported cable nets.

The network also put together its best demo numbers in 2008, averaging 321,000 adults 25-54 (up 8 percent year-over-year) and 239,000 viewers 18-49 (up 12 percent).

In a statement released by Crown Media Tuesday afternoon, newly-promoted president and CEO Bill Abbott thanked Kenin for his contributions to the company. “David leaves us with a strong and experienced management team that is ready to meet the challenges ahead,” Abbott said.

In addition to casting around for a new programming head, Abbott continues to search for his own replacement on the ad sales side of the business. Abbott officially takes the reins from Schleiff on June 1, having signed a two-and-a-half year contract with Crown. (Per the terms spelled out in a recent 10-Q filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, Crown will pay Abbott a base salary of $670,000 per year.)

Prior to joining Hallmark, Kenin ran his own consultancy firm in Los Angeles.  Under the Kenin Partners banner, he represented a roster of clients that included Viacom and Microsoft. From 1994 to 1997, Kenin served as president of CBS Sports, where he oversaw the rebuilding of the network’s sports division through the acquisition and/or renewal of such sports rights as the NCAA Div. I men’s basketball tournament, the Masters and the U.S. Open (tennis).  

Before taking the CBS job, Kenin served as an executive vp at USA Networks. He is acknowledged as one of the architects of Sci Fi Channel, having overseen the network’s initial branding and programming strategy.