Hallmark Channel Looks to 'Better' Daytime Lineup

Net Adds Meredith Chat Show in Bid to Breathe New Life Into Slot Post-Martha

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Hallmark Channel is aiming to beef up its daytime-programming block by partnering with Meredith Corp. for the exclusive cable rights to the syndicated talk show "The Better Show."

"The Better Show"
The cable network has been working to revive its daytime slot after it cut ties with Martha Stewart late last year.

For Meredith, the deal comes as the publishing industry tries to find new sources of revenue as print advertising continues to tumble.

"The Better Show," which will begin running on Hallmark Channel in October, one day following its airing in syndication, is hosted by Audra Lowe and JD Roberto and covers cooking, beauty, health and wellness, decorating and other issues dealing with family and relationships.

Hallmark and Meredith have been in conversations for several years, looking for a way to partner the two brands, both of which have strong foundations in women's lifestyle and families, said Paul Karpowicz, president-local media group at Meredith, whose magazine portfolio includes Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Every Day with Rachael Ray.

"The Better Show" has been in syndication since 2007, and Meredith is ready to extend its reach to a national level, Mr. Karpowicz said.

"The Better Show" will serve as a companion piece to Hallmark's two-hour weekday "Home & Family" lifestyle program, said Bill Abbott, president-CEO of Hallmark Channels. Hallmark revamped its daytime block in the fall after it chose not to renew its contract with Ms. Stewart. It also brought in Marie Osmond to host her own talk show.

The daytime time slot has seen a 6% to 10% ratings bump year-to-date, according to the network.

The two-year licensing deal for "The Better Show" will include advertising, marketing and digital synergies, but both companies said it's too soon to get into specifics on any of these initiatives.

"We can learn a lot from Meredith. They have done a great job with their digital business. We are looking at how digital can make sense for 'Home & Family,'" Mr. Abbott said.

Digital has been a focus for Meredith, whose print-ad sales have been lackluster. While the company laid off 60 employees earlier in the year, it has been adding to its digital headcount. It also purchased AllRecipes.com last year for $175 million.

Besides "The Better Show," both companies expect there to be opportunities for other programming deals in the future. "We hope to expand the deal into maybe some prime-time specials," said Kieran Clarke, exec VP-general manager of Meredith Video Studios.

Meredith owns or operates 13 local TV stations and has a two-year deal with NBCUniversal's Cozi TV, a digital multicast TV network, for "The Next Great Family Band."

Meredith is also bringing a prime-time show, "The Aloha Project," to the market, Mr. Clarke said.

TV is a big focus for the company. "We are looking to create nationally distributed, quality shows that fit with the Meredith brand and can help drive a profit," Mr. Clarke said. "TV helps us expand the visibility of the brand. We want to hit all platforms."

While ad pages at some of Meredith's major magazine titles have fallen more sharply than the overall industry, which declined 8.2% in 2012, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, its TV division saw strong results in its most-recent quarter.

Its local-media division posted a 32% jump in revenue to $111 million, while operating profit soared 65% to $45 million, which were records for the company.

But despite its print struggles, it could be getting more titles. Time Warner is considering selling most of its magazines, which include People, Real Simple and InStyle, to Meredith.

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