The Hallmark Channel is an American cable and satellite television network that is owned by Crown Media Holdings, which is owned by Hallmark Cards. The channel's programming is primarily targeted at families, and features a mix of television movies and miniseries, original and acquired television series, and lifestyle programs.

As of February 2015, Hallmark Channel is available to approximately 85,439,000 pay television households (73.4% of households with television) in the United States.[4]

On July 28, 2017, it was reported that Crown Media would add a brand new cable network titled Hallmark Drama (which launched on October 1, 2017) and a subscription video-on-demand streaming service titled Hallmark Movies Now on October 3.[42][43]

History

The Hallmark Channel traces its history to the launch of two separate religious cable channels, the American Christian Television System (ACTS) and the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN). The two networks began alternating time on a shared transponder slot on the Galaxy III satellite in 1992.[44] Under the original timeshare agreement, the network was branded as VISN/ACTS. Each network was provided time for its programming blocks, and would use their own logos.

VISN launched on July 1, 1988, and was founded by the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, in cooperation with several cable providers.[45] It aired for about 16 hours a day and ran religious programs from mainline Protestant denominations such as the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ. Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Jewish, and Islamic faiths also provided programming. VISN aired during the morning and evening hours. ACTS commenced operations in 1984, and was owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. It aired programming from evangelical and fundamentalist non-charismatic Christian groups such as the SBC, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Association of Regular Baptist Churches, as well as well-known evangelists such as Jerry Falwell, Charles Stanley and D. James Kennedy. Both channels aired several hours a week of religious children's programs, some of which overlapped, including Sunshine Factory, Joy Junction, Davey and Goliath, and Jot.

In 1993, the network was renamed as the Faith and Values Channel. It began adding a few secular programs during this time, such as exercise shows, health and cooking shows, and family-oriented drama series and movies. In 1995, cable conglomerate Tele-Communications Inc. acquired a 49% ownership stake in the Faith and Values Channel, and took over operational control of the network. It added more secular programming to the network and reduced religious programming to about 10 hours a day. In 1996, the network was rebranded as the Odyssey Network (although on-air promotions often referred to the network simply as "Odyssey"), and launched a website, Odysseyfamily.com, which was used to provide program listings for the network.

Crown Media Holdings and The Jim Henson Company bought majority stakes in Odyssey in November 1998; under the new venture, Odyssey underwent a major programming revamp on April 4, 1999, decreasing the amount of religious programs on the network down to four hours a day. The channel began to focus more on family-targeted entertainment programming including some classic sitcoms, children's programs and additional family-oriented movies. Henson sold its interest in the channel to Crown Media Holdings in 2000. Odyssey then dropped much of its children's programs and relegated religious programming to a few hours on Sundays.

History as Hallmark Channel

On August 5, 2001, the channel underwent yet another rebranding, relaunching as the Hallmark Channel.[7] The restructured network completely dropped religious programming, but continued to focus on family-oriented sitcoms and drama series, dramatic films and other general entertainment programs. The National Interfaith Cable Coalition continued to own about 5% of the channel, and continues to produce some program content for Hallmark Channel. The change resulted in The Kermit Channel in Asia, which Crown Media acquired around the same time, being relaunched under the Hallmark Channel brand, reducing Kermit Channel to a three-hour program block on that network.[2]

David Evans was appointed as CEO of the newly-developing network, until he resigned in May 2006.[4] The network remained without a formal CEO until October 2006, when former Court TV (now truTV) chairman and CEO Henry Schleiff was appointed in the position, overseeing all of the networks’ divisions.[4][4] In 2002, the Hallmark Channel premiered a weekday morning talk show, New Morning; a Sunday morning version, hosted by Naomi Judd, titled Naomi's New Morning, debuted in 2005 and lasted two years before being pulled from the schedule in early 2007.

In January 2007, Hallmark Channel dropped the Hallmark crown from its logo, although it is still used sporadically on-air, in promos, and on its services in other countries. On May 27, 2007, Hallmark Channel launched "Watch With Me", a new national public affairs initiative aimed to promote programming for families to watch together, and "to spend more time together."[7]

In 2008, Hallmark Channel unveiled a new branding campaign with predominantly gold coloring, a stylized logo, and a new slogan, "Make Yourself At Home". In February 2008, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign purchased an hour of Hallmark Channel's primetime slots under a paid programming arrangement to run a special promoting Clinton's campaign for President of the United States on February 4, the day before the multi-state "Super Tuesday" primaries.[4]

Henry Schlieff stepped down as the channel's CEO on May 6, 2009, with William J. Abbott being promoted to the role from his position as executive vice president of advertising sales. Both parties said Schleiff's departure was amicable.[4] Later that month, Crown Media Holdings announced that it had put the channel up for sale, as the company was burdened with over $1 billion in debt in running the network. After over a month with no prospective buyer, Crown Media took the network off the selling block, with the board blaming the large debt for the lack of interest. Abbott decided that Crown Media Holdings would take the network in a younger, "lighter" direction, while continuing to cater to baby boomers.[13]

In January 2010, the network's on-air appearance was revamped in preparation for the launch of its high-definition simulcast feed, featuring a predominantly lavender color scheme, 3D renderings of the Hallmark script logo and relatively simple elements for its graphics package, and the introduction of a new slogan, "Celebrate Life's Moments." The channel also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Hallmark brand that month.

Programming

Hallmark Channel's programming consists of classic and some recent television series, and original made-for-TV movies. It also airs television movies and miniseries from the Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology series. Many of the Hallmark Hall of Fame films broadcast by the network were originally broadcast during its CBS run; the network currently airs Hall of Fame films on a two-week delay from their original broadcast on ABC (which began airing the anthology series in April 2011).

Original programs broadcast on the network include the daytime talk show Home and Family (which originated on ABC Family [now Freeform] when it was known as The Family Channel, in April 1996) and When Calls the Heart (which is based on the novels by Janette Oke). The network's original programming originally consisted mainly of lifestyle programs and made-for-TV movies; Hallmark Channel debuted its first original scripted series in July 2013, with the premiere of Cedar Cove (which is based on the novels by Debbie Macomber).

On February 2, 2014, the Hallmark Channel partnered with New York's North Shore Animal League and Last Hope Animal Rescue to debut the Kitten Bowl during Super Bowl XLVIII. The event – hosted by Beth Stern and announcers John Sterling and Mary Carillo – is designed as counterprogramming to the Super Bowl and airs during the game's halftime show, and is similar to another animal-themed event that debuted nine years earlier on Animal Planet, the Puppy Bowl. Kitten Bowl II returned on February 1, 2015, and was watched by 1.3 million viewers.[4] A new Kitten Bowl has aired every year since, running repeatedly on Super Bowl Sunday in a 3-hour program that includes "playoff games".

They also play the sitcoms The Middle, The Golden Girls, Home Improvement, Last Man Standing, I Love Lucy, Cheers, and Frasier.

Original movies

The network's made-for-TV movies are characterized as family-friendly and inspirational, ranging from holiday-themed films to westerns. In the early stages of the channel's development, Hallmark Channel had a steady one-movie-a-month, or 12-a-year, production schedule with the films mainly being produced by RHI Entertainment. However, in 2008, Crown Media had ramped up its production schedule to approximately 30 movies a year and opened up to other production companies, though RHI still produces some movies for Hallmark Channel.[4] The network premiered 35 original movies during the period from 2009 to 2010.[4] Hallmark Channel released 25 television movies during the 2011 calendar year.

Holiday programming

From the last weekend in October until January 1, Hallmark Channel runs a seasonal block called Countdown to Christmas, featuring a mix of holiday movies, specials and holiday-themed original programming. The block is branded as Countdown to New Years from December 26 until January 1 and culminates with the channel's broadcast of the Tournament of Roses Parade. Hallmark Channel also airs Christmas movies during July as part of a Christmas in July block; Christmas-themed programming thus runs for nearly three months of the year on the channel. Other seasonal events programmed by Hallmark Channel include romance-themed movies and specials that air during the first half of February in the lead-up to Valentine's Day; movies and specials relating to Mother's Day and Father's Day respectively air during May and June; and Halloween-themed movies and specials (among which include the channel's The Good Witch film series) during the month of October.

During the 2017 holiday season, the Hallmark Channel will premier 33 original Christmas holiday films; this is up from a total of 28 holiday movies in 2016. Hallmark has a total of 136 Christmas holiday-themed movies in their original library of films.[4]

Website

On November 19, 2007, the network refreshed its website, offering users microsites dedicated to the channel's original programming and marketing initiatives,[7] such as sweepstakes and special "events" like "Crime Time Sunday".[42] Some of the microsites include games centered on the themes of its movies.[42] The website also began to stream the channel's award-winning original series, Adoption,[42] marking the first time the network has scheduled a full-length program online.[7]

On Location

On July 21, 2008, the website launched an original online series titled On Location, which features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from Hallmark Channel's original movies. The segments are featured on each movie's individual microsite.[7] The series soft launched in July 2007 as Inside Story and a different host for the episodes profiling Avenging Angel,[42] Charlie & Me,[42] The Good Witch,[42] Daniel's Daughter,[42] and The Note.[42] In 2009, the program was revamped again, dropping the on-camera host segments, with the segment on the making of Love Takes Wing being the last On Location episode to feature an on-camera host.[42]

Online movie shop

On January 29, 2009, Crown Media announced the development of an online movie store featuring DVD releases and movie-related products from the Hallmark library. The shop is powered by the Amazon Associates program. Since its soft launch in mid-2008, Hallmark Channel has already generated sales of over 10,000 items. The network earns a commission on each sale.[42]

Advertising

In mid-June 2009, the network announced it would sell individual ad breaks featuring a single advertiser. The so-called "Fast Breaks" are prefaced with short bumpers announcing that the program streaming will return after a 30-second break. The cost of such standalone spots is about double that of a regular 30-second commercial on the channel. Hallmark Channel signed insurance company Mutual of Omaha as the first buyer.[13]

Controversies

Carriage disputes

Hallmark Channel and co-owned film service Hallmark Movie Channel were dropped by AT&T U-verse on September 1, 2010, due to a carriage dispute resulting from a proposed increase in retransmission consent payments that U-verse considered to be disproportionate with the lower audience viewership for the channels.[43]

As of July 23, 2015, the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries returned to U-verse.[43]

For those that do not subscribe to the standard cable television model, as of October 20, 2016, the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel were added to Sling TV service. The channels are not currently available to those with PlayStation Vue.

Hallmark Channel around the world

Hallmark Channel operated several cable channels in various international markets. Outside of the United States, the Hallmark Channel services were owned by NBCUniversal under a brand licensing agreement with Crown Media Holdings, and were run by different entities that had access to the Hallmark name and brand. The international channel maintained different programming and content standards than the flagship U.S. service. Around 2010/2011 the international versions of Hallmark Channel ended their existence and were rebranded as Universal Channel, Diva Universal, 13th Street, or simply closed.

Network slogans

  • "Where Great Stories Come to Life" (2001–2008)
  • "Make Yourself at Home" (2008–2012)
  • "The Heart of TV" (2012–present)

See also