Hallmark loses another top exec

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David Kenin, exec vp programming at the Hallmark Channel, is leaving the company at the end of the month.

Barbara Fisher, senior vp original programming, and Michelle Vicary, senior vp acquisitions and scheduling, will share Kenin's responsibilities until a replacement is named.

His departure comes two weeks after president and CEO Henry Schleiff stepped down and was replaced by Bill Abbott, Hallmark's top advertising exec.

The back-to-back high-level departures inevitably will raise speculation in cable circles about what direction owner Crown Media might want to take the company.

Abbott denied that the Crown Media board or Hallmark management had asked Kenin to resign, suggesting only that the cable veteran might have wanted, in the wake of Schleiff's exit, to go "in another direction."

"David leaves us with a strong and experienced management team with which we're comfortable," Abbott said, adding that there won't be a major shift in programming direction. "We will stay true to our brand and to family programming," he said. (partialdiff)

Kenin and his team have put together original movies that will take the cabler through the first quarter of next year.

Abbott also described Hallmark ad revenue as "relatively healthy" compared with those of ailing local TV stations. Carriage-wise, Schleiff took the cabler from 30-odd million households to 86 million in less than three years.

Since joining Crown Media in 2002, Kenin spearheaded a substantial increase in the network's original and acquired programming, a strategic move that generated continuous ratings growth. He was also the creative driving force behind the development and launch of the Hallmark Movie Channel.

Crown Media stock has been trading on the Nasdaq around the $3 mark, midway between its 52-week high and low but well off its peak of about $20 in 2001. (partialdiff)
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