With last month's acquisition of leading TV program developer RHI Entertainment, Hallmark is positioning itself to meet the "explosive demand" it forecasts for family oriented TV programming.
Hallmark is already offering as gifts specially packaged videocassettes of some of the most popular movies developed for its "Hallmark Hall of Fame" network TV specials. The videos are sold at its retail stores nationwide.
But the Kansas City, Mo.-based card marketer maintains the new emphasis on TV won't alter its primary focus as the top marketer of greeting cards and gifts.
"Movies and TV programs we own and develop may have images we might begin seeing in greeting cards, and there are other synergies we hope to exploit, but we emphasize we aren't in the video business. We have no plans to get into video rentals either," said Steve Doyal, Hallmark's media relations director.
With RHI Entertainment and the Signboard Hill Productions unit Hallmark formed in 1992, Hallmark becomes the leading independent producer of long-format network TV programs as well the owner of classic movie libraries, including "Laurel & Hardy" and "Our Gang."
Upcoming projects include TV specials aimed at women and the 8-hour "Scarlett" miniseries.
Those programs, plus new family oriented programming being developed under the new Hallmark Entertainment subsidiary, are an additional revenue stream Hallmark says is surging as the growing number of cable TV and interactive media outlets look for programming.
It was the success of greeting card marketing through the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" network TV specials-with long-format commercials from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago-that proved the marketing power of family oriented programming and led to the latest acquisition, Mr. Doyal said.
"*`Hall of Fame' was bringing us terrific opportunities and actors for family programming, and it looked profitable. But our resources for producing TV specials were limited, so we needed another family programming expert like RHI," he said.
Hallmark also is testing the interactive media waters. This fall it will market greeting cards and gifts on U.S. Avenue, the interactive TV home shopping channel U S West is testing in Omaha.
"What we specialize in is emotional content, whether through greeting cards or movies. Our guide on new media will be whether we can exploit these synergies," Mr. Doyal said.