Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel finished well in 2011. In Q4 HC’s ad sales were up 16% year-over-year and HMC, the adolescent in the Crown Media Family, reported an 84% increase in revenues compared to 2010. The “Countdown to Christmas” campaign on the flagship net and HMC’s growth in distribution and ratings can be attributed to the uptick. And now with a foray into original series and a 2-hour daytime lifestyle program, Ed Georger, EVP, Ad Sales, is looking to build on that momentum.
You recently announced a new, daytime 2-hour lifestyle show, “Home & Family.” How will you integrate advertisers into that format?
That’s a huge focus for us. The fresh new programming, first with “Marie Osmond,” a recognizable household name, and then our 2-hour, 44-week a year production of “Home & Family,” really opens up the door for us to do a lot of sponsorship integration for advertisers. We’re excited about the new daytime block, and we’ve already begun to see the excitement on the advertising side. And we’re in development of 2 original primetime series. That’s a question we’ve been asked [by advertisers] in the past—when we going to get into the series game in primetime? So to have an opportunity to present that to advertisers at the upfront, with “Cedar Cove” and “When Calls the Heart” gives advertisers fresh, new programming.
What are the new categories of advertisers?
We’ve broken through and expect to expand in some categories in daytime, centered around our lifestyle programming—from traditional packaged goods and home repair categories, but in addition to that, credit card, automotive and theatrical categories are a few that have begun to resonate and grow for us.
Do you sell much online advertising?
We have 2 robust websites, HallmarkChannel.com and HallmarkMovieChannel.com. Actually, that’s one of the huge benefits of both of these programs—and our primetime programs, but particularly the daytime programs. Now that we are producing them and owning them, we have the right to take the content and build awareness and build our audience on our websites. We do currently sell [the site] but we’re excited about expanding our content in that space, particularly in the how-to area, which both of these shows will be able to deliver for us.
How will owning your own content make a difference?
With “The Martha Stewart Show,” we did not own that content. So we had very, very limited rights to that programming, outside of the fact that it aired on our network. Not only will we own the new programs, and have the opportunity to bring it to market on other platforms, but we’ll have complete creative control over that programming. So we can assure ourselves that the lifestyle programming we present on air walks hand-in-hand with the brand that’s been so powerful for us.
Will you sell ads on mobile and iPads, too?
Well, I think like the rest of the business we’re currently developing a strategy around those platforms. It’s certainly a focus of ours as we develop and create our own programming. We are excited about building a business in that space.
You’ve been working at building your social media presence. Will you eventually sell sponsorships?
The company is looking at all areas of social media—the traditional Facebook and Twitter, but also we’re focused on new platforms, like Google+, Pinerest or whatever is coming up next. We need to continue to grow in this area. We’ve had early success with 800,000 fans—pretty quickly on Facebook. And as we can offer more compelling original content and get people to talk about that more in the social space, then we’ll be more successful in building a business around that platform—wherever that goes. The industry is still trying to figure that out… We have a pretty good start, so when the original content comes our way we think that will only get stronger.
Name 3 goals the brand is working toward in the next year.
First and foremost we’re very focused on original programming. That’s the leader in made-for-television high-quality family movies, but now in addition to that, a fully owned all original lifestyle block in daytime, as well as our development of series in primetime. Number 2 is the growth of the Hallmark Movie Channel. Operators consistently tell us we’re tops in their choice networks they want to launch. And we’ve seen that in the very quick and steep increase we’ve seen in our household subscribers—nearly 50 million homes. And then to your point, always looking to the next opportunity. By owning our own content we think the other screens, whether digital or handheld, is an area that the company is focused on and we’ll be excited about bringing to the market in the near future. We feel the momentum is in our favor, and so far the ad community has responded very well to the news we unveiled last week.