Hallmark Channel on the Upswing

Family-Friendly Network Buoyed by Boomers

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The Player: Hallmark Channel
The Date: March 25, 2008
The Venue: The Modern, New York
Key Execs: Henry Schleiff, president-CEO, Crown Media Holdings; Bill Abbott, exec VP-ad sales, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel; David Kenin, exec VP-programming; Laura Masse, exec VP-marketing
The Food: The Modern's kitchen offered tasty appetizers like chicken satay and mushroom pastries to start things off, followed by a choice of sea bass or sirloin as the main course.
The Drinks: White and red wine flowed like water, with the attentive wait staff eager to refill your glass while you were mid-conversation.
January's 'The Good Witch,' starring Catherine Bell, scored an impressive 3.8 household rating.
January's 'The Good Witch,' starring Catherine Bell, scored an impressive 3.8 household rating. Credit: Hallmark Channel
The Swag: A flashlight that doubles as a remote cellphone charger, complete with multiple outlet adapters for virtually every make of cell phone and Blackberry since 2005
The Ratings Game: The Hallmark Channel has quietly become a consistent top 10 network for adults 25 to 54, averaging more than 1 million viewers in the demo during a typical week. Its original movies continue to fare best and often double its average prime-time rating during a typical week. While its holiday movies fare best, January's "The Good Witch," starring Catherine Bell, scored an impressive 3.8 household rating.
Last Year's Take: Hallmark saw ad revenue increase by 28.1% from $204 million in 2006 to $245.9 million in 2007.
The Digital Play: HallmarkChannel.com offers streaming clips of its original series and movies. The network also made its first venture into mobile advertising in January via a campaign with mobile entertainment company Limbo to promote its original movie "The Good Witch." Laura Masse, the network's head of marketing, added that Hallmark will be selling four cross-platform sponsorship opportunities for advertisers to activate their brands not only on-air and online but also in store at Hallmark's 3,700 stores nationwide.

If 2007 was a booming year for the Hallmark Channel, 2008 is poised to be a boomer year. The family-friendly network recently commissioned Millward Brown to help show the buying power and media habits of the 35- to 64-year-old demo in a report titled "The Consumer Television and Technology Study." The study juxtaposed boomers' media habits with those of the so-called millennials (adults 18 to 34) and found some striking differences as well as intriguing similarities between the two demos.

Among the 1,200 cable and satellite viewers polled for the study, 87% of millennials said they like to fast-forward during ad breaks, while 69% of boomers are likely to reach for the remote during commercials. Similarly, 44% of millennials said they prefer to use their DVRs to watch TV on their own schedule, while 30% of boomers said they use their DVRs for the same purpose. Other viewing habits showed a similar millennial-dominant embrace of new media, whether it was watching shows on the web (27% millennials vs. 16% boomers), video-on-demand usage (24% vs. 18%) and early adoption of new technologies (52% vs. 32%).

Conversely, boomers are just as fickle when it comes to brand loyalty as their younger counterparts. Of the viewers polled, 66% of boomers said they considered it risky to buy an unfamiliar brand, while 62% of millennials exhibited the same risk aversion in their spending habits. These findings were markedly similar to a 2005 study Millward Brown conducted for AARP, which showed that 61% of boomers were less likely to be brand-loyal versus 62% of consumers aged 18 to 41.

"The 18 to 49 demo is essentially stagnant," Jess Aguirre, Hallmark's senior VP-research, said at the network's upfront presentation to the press last night. "Seventy-eight million viewers turn 50 over the next 10 years, and they're most impacted by new TV. This study confirms that linear TV continues to boom among boomers."

30 movies planned
To super-serve those viewers, the network announced plans to produce 30 original movies by year's end. Among the first to air will be "The Shell Seekers" starring Vanessa Redgrave on May 3, and "Final Approach" starring Dean Cain and Lea Thompson on May 24. Hallmark is also taking an aggressive acquisition approach to its programming, snapping up the rights to air "The Golden Girls" in February 2009 after Lifetime's rights to the show expire. The Hallmark Movie Channel, which launches in HD on April 2, will add 99 movies from the Disney-ABC domestic TV vault to its lineup this year, including "The Shaggy Dog," "Flubber," "Old Yeller" and "The Princess Diaries."

Crown Media CEO Henry Schleiff added, "This is a testament to our success, and our programming is a little bit of a testament to what the marketplace is searching for. Our audience has assets, not allowances."
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