03/24/15: Hallmark Channel



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The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a

In the dog-eat-dog world of cable network programming, Hallmark Channel has a new secret weapon: Cats. In its second year, Kitten Bowl, hosted by Beth Ostrovsky (wife of shock jock Howard Stern), reached 1.3 million viewers between noon and 3p on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s an increase of 28% over last year’s inaugural telecast. The broadcast also jumped 38 percent in the coveted women 25-54 demo. What’s more, #kittenbowl garnered more than 50,000 tweets, leading the network to its biggest-ever Twitter response. Talk about the cat that ate the canary! The network has plans to expand the franchise with Kitten Games, which will coincide with the summer Olympics in July 2016.


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But cats aren’t the only coup that Bill Abbott, President and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks will be sharing when he makes the rounds to agencies this Upfront season. The network is currently in 85 million homes and growing, and since its first foray into original scripted series in 2013. (The ratings for its newest series, Good Witch, were the nets best premiere numbers for an original series.) Abbott took some time between meetings to share his vision as well as some programming plans for 2015-16, which will help the network continue its upward ratings trajectory.

What’s your pitch?
Hallmark Channel grew +7% year-to-year among women 25-54 in the fourth quarter, while Total Cable and Broadcast were down, 8% and 11% respectively. I’m pleased that we have hit our stride, and we have great things on docket for 2015-16. As has always been the case, Hallmark Channel’s points of difference include its family-friendly focus and the quality within the brand, which we believe has been second to none for 65 years. Beyond that, we’ve changed a lot in the past two years. Hallmark went from a channel with acquired series and some movies to one that’s a multi-faceted destination.

We entered the prime-time original series venue with Good Witch, When Calls the Heart and Cedar Cove, and so far we’re three-for-three: All three series have continued to grow their audience and will continue in 2015-16.

On the radar
“Since we have green-lit three successful scripted series subsequent seasons, we don’t have all that much new to announce on the programming front. But we are developing Chesapeake Shores, an original series about a multigenerational family in the Chesapeake, Virginia area that’s based on the series of books by Cheryl Woods. It will launch as two-hour backdoor pilot this fall.”

How We work with Clients
Our events strategy focuses on times of year when Hallmark plays big role in people’s lives, particularly our Countdown to Christmas programming initiative. Last year, Hallmark Channel had the highest-rated movie of the week among households for seven straight weeks (11/1-12/14). Also, for six straight weeks (10/31-12/7), the network was #1 among women 25-54.

“One major thing we bring to the table is an ability to work with Hallmark and partners like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to extend our content and messaging. Our biggest success story last year in terms of partnerships was with WalMart. They sponsored the holiday movie Northpole with Tiffani Thiessen, which was a coproduction of Crown Media and Hallmark Cards Inc., as well as carrying product created by Hallmark around the movie in their stores. In addition, Walmart carried DVDs of five of our original movies. That’s the gold standard. The network recently started production on a new Northpole telepic, tentatively titled Northpole: Open for Christmas, starring Dermot Mulroney and Lori Loughlin and Good Witch’s Bailee Madison. I’m optimistic we’ll partner with Walmart again this year on this project.”

Objectives for this Season
"Our goal is to develop partnerships with advertisers that help us extend that message. For the Kitten Bowl, we want to work more deeply with sponsors like Purina and Pet Smart, using both of our social media channels to promote the event. In general, we’ve made progress this year in categories including automotive, financial services and travel. We’re in good shape. Our scatter is up double digits, and the appetite for content on the ad side is extremely high.”

What the Advertisers Want
“Clients will always look for opportunities to co-create customized content. But universally at the end of the day, it’s a value-driven equation.”

…And One Prediction

“We believe our market will be up double digits and outpace CPM.”


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Just Asking…
Who better to answer some random questions than Mark Steines and Christina Ferrare, the co-hosts of the Hallmark Channel’s two-hour daytime talk show Home & Family and a few good witches?

Mark Steines
What form of social media do you use most?
Instagram

Guilty pleasure TV show?
Dateline

TV character you most want to be?
The Fonz!

Job you’d most like to have but know you never will?
Photographer

Christina Ferrare
What form of social media do you use most?
I’m an Instagrammer.

Guilty pleasure TV show?
Ray Donovan

TV character you most want to be?
The wife of Ray Donovan

Job you’d most like to have but know you never will?
Savannah Guthrie
‘s job on Today

Last thing you ate?
Really bad chicken

Bailee Madison, Good Witch
Guilty pleasure TV show?

Pretty Little Liars

Job you’d most like to have but know you never will?
Owning a spa! I love making people feel good!

Last text you sent?
To my sister Kailtin, telling her that I missed her!

TV character you most want to be?
Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU)

Catherine Bell, Good Witch
What form of social media do you use most?
Instagram

Guilty pleasure TV show?
The
Walking Dead!!! I binge-watched 3 1/2 seasons. Now I’m forced to wait and watch the new show each week.

Job you’d most like to have but know you never will?
A doctor. I went to UCLA for pre-med but then started modeling and acting.

Last text you sent?
To my daughter telling her I miss her and to have a great day at school (I’m out of town).

TV character you most want to be?
Michonne from The Walking Dead with her insane sword-wielding skills

-Reported by Michele Shapiro

Quote of The Day

“We’ve been undervalued in the marketplace for years and now even more, given that our ratings and points of difference are so significant.” – Bill Abbott

Coming up in Backstage at the Upfronts, hitting your mailbox at 6pm!

REELZ Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales Bill Rosolie shares his approach to unlocking his network’s value for advertisers.

Which network repositioning has paid off so handsomely that it ranked #6 among all 106 ad-supported cable networks in total day for viewer growth year-to-year at the end of 2014? We’ll let you know in a future issue of Backstage at the Upfronts.



Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

Cynopsis Ad Sales: Mike Farina | VP, Sales | 203-218-6480

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