With Christmas coming, Hallmark hits its high season

By Janet Di Lauro

Michelle Vicary

Michelle Vicary

As December inches ever closer, it’s time for Hallmark to unleash their version of the Kraken – a slew of heartwarming, Christmas movies for all members of the family. Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Crown Media Family Networks, spoke to Cynopsis about why the end-of-year holiday season has a special warm spot in their hearts.

When do you start the initial planning for holiday programming?
We’re already getting ready to go into production for 2015. People know we’re known for Christmas, so they’re already bringing us concepts that we’ll consider for 2016. You want to shoot where there’s snow, and if you want to shoot when there’s snow, you have to shot before March. We’re always looking at the creative community to bring us Christmas concepts as early as possible, because we want to have snow!

What are you particularly excited about this holiday season?
For 65-plus years [our holiday movies have] aired on a broadcast network, but now we are the home of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and we are truly working in concert with our parent company to bring the Hallmark experience to our viewer. People look forward to a Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movie experience and we’re going to deliver that this year with One Christmas Eve with Anne Heche.

Any other movies you’re especially optimistic about?
We also have Debbie Macomber, who writes a Christmas book every year that always goes to the New York Times bestseller list. She did it for us this year for the second time to specifically create a movie on Hallmark Channel, with Mr. Miracle starring Rob Morrow, [and] Candace Cameron Bure in Christmas Under Wraps. We just have so much happening! It’s hard to say, “This one’s going to break out.”

And that’s just Hallmark Channel. On Hallmark Movies and we also have the Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas movie with Eric Mabius. Signed, Sealed, Delivered has been a very successful series for us, and we’ve transitioned it into a two-hour movie event. What we’re doing is creating an even bigger event across both networks with more original programming and more hours of programming.

Anne Heche

Anne Heche with a furry friend in “One Christmas Eve.”

What types of programs get the best ratings?
During the holiday season, our original movies are consistently No. 1 in the time period, every Saturday and Sunday night.  In fact, this year’s Countdown to Christmas launch marked the most-watched and highest-rated opening debut weekend of all time, and so far, each set of weekend premieres brings another #1 rated cable movie for the week.  So those certainly are our focus.  That’s true for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.  Our competitors may air non-holiday movies, or titles that have run on multiple networks over the years.  We are building unique libraries of content that become perennial favorites that viewers can only experience by watching Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

What makes a Hallmark holiday movie stand out?
For us it really is about embracing the season and we continue to do that more and more. I think we target our audience in a deeper way each year by really being of the season. You see a lot of Christmas movies on our competitors where the season is the backdrop. But for us it’s really about being of the season and what that means for people.

What does holiday programming do for the brand?
I think people have such a strong association with the Hallmark brand. Any brand that’s as big as the Hallmark brand and has been around for 100-plus years and is part of people’s emotional connection to each other and their relationship to one another, which is what Hallmark represents, and then you put in the holiday season – that elevates it to that next level where people are looking to connect at the holiday season. It’s just such a natural place for people to come to. We can only give them more. The more we give them, the more they want. It’s a great time of year for us.

Christmas Under Wraps airs on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. ET; One Christmas Eve airs on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. ET.; Debbie Macomber’s Mr. Miracle airs on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. ET; and Christmas at Cartwright’s premieres on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn (@) cynopsis.com

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