A Soothing, Predictable Network For Uncertain Times

Road to the Upfront: Hallmark Channel

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The Player: Hallmark Channel
The Date: March 24, 2009
The Venue: Primehouse, New York
Hallmark continues its investment in family-friendly programming and original movies in 2009 with fare like 'Love Finds a Home.'
Hallmark continues its investment in family-friendly programming and original movies in 2009 with fare like 'Love Finds a Home.' Credit: Crown Media
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
The Food: A hefty, hearty menu with a choice of crab cakes or tuna tartare to start; a 16-ounce Kansas City steak or, for the light eaters, grilled salmon, with potatoes and macaroni and cheese on the side; and for dessert, triple-layer chocolate cake or a sorbet trio, in case you didn't eat five courses already. What recession?
The Drinks: A selection of white or red wine for the lunch press presentation, which helped take the edge off for a troubled publishing industry.
The Swag: A whole tote bag's worth of goodies from the family-friendly network: a miniature picture frame from Leeman; a DVD of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (Gene Wilder version, thank goodness); a half-dozen spring-themed greeting cards from Hallmark Gold Crown; a Nike iPod Sport Kit, for clients who want to "run with the C3 leader"; glass, ice cube-shaped tea-light holders from Red Envelope; a Hallmark Channel movie three-pack; and a golden yellow baseball cap, presumably a tongue-in-cheek take on wearing a Gold Crown around the city.

The Ratings Game: Hallmark Channel continues to become a frequent top-10 player in prime time on the strength of its original movies, which have averaged a 2.4 household rating, with 3.8 million total viewers in 2009. Adults 25 to 54 and women 25 to 54 are up 26% and 30%, respectively, during the time period.

Last Year's Take: Hallmark Channel banked $223 million in ad revenue in 2008, up 8.4% from 2007, according to the company's full-year earnings report to investors.

The Scene: Here's a candid pitch you don't hear very often from a TV network during upfront season: "predictability."

That's Hallmark Channel's buzzword for advertisers and audiences alike as it continues its investment in family-friendly programming and original movies in 2009. "I think it's about offering predictability in an unpredictable world," Crown Media CEO Henry Schleiff said at the network's upfront presentation to press in New York. "After a long day at work, or a long day looking for work, people are looking for predictability in their lives."

To that end, Crown Media is investing in 35 original movies for the 2009-2010 season that revolve around Hallmark's three key brand attributes: heart, hearth and home. "We're very proud, especially in this economic environment, that our programming so clearly shouts our brand," Mr. Schleiff said.

And brands are still finding value in Hallmark, with first-quarter ad sales poised to finish upward of 20% higher than the same time period in 2008. The bulk of that growth is driven by Hallmark's efforts to quantify the spending habits of baby boomers, its largest demo, as the first cable-network partner for Nielsen's Homescan Panel products. A recent custom study with Nielsen Fusion found that Hallmark Channel's cross-platform audience, roughly 65.5% of U.S. homes, accounted for $280 billion in annual spending on consumer package goods, or 65.5% of total consumer spending in the category.

The research study's first advertiser, Nestle Toll House, ran a 2008 holiday campaign on-air, online, in the nearly 4,000 Hallmark Gold Crown stores, in Hallmark magazine and, for the first time, in Walmart stores. The study found that consumers exposed to the promotion accounted for $441 million in spending on the Nestle brand, totaling almost half of total spending for Toll House. Hallmark "brand enthusiasts," as the study dubbed them, were also found to be 10% more likely to spend on brands like Nestle Toll House per year than consumers not exposed to any Hallmark brands. "As a leader in reaching this consumer base, Hallmark is strategically positioned to help clients attract baby boomers who will, in turn, open their wallets and make product purchases," said Bill Abbott, Hallmark Channel's exec VP-ad sales.

Other highlights from the Nielsen study include baby boomers' 55% share of spending on two-thirds of more than 6,000 individual brands measured by Nielsen, with little distinction from non-boomer households in terms of brand loyalty. Despite these results, Nielsen found many of the measured brands do not target baby boomers in their media strategies. "These findings provide further proof that the baby-boomer audience is a powerful segment of the population for any advertiser to include in their media mix."

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