Kenin to depart Hallmark

Second high-profile exit in recent weeks for cable net

David Kenin, exec VP of 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.

Kenin's departure comes a month after the company's president-CEO Henry Schleiff stepped down and was replaced by the company's top advertising exec Bill Abbott.

The two high-level back-to-back departures will inevitably raise eyebrows in cable circles, and speculation about what new direction owner Crown Media may want to take the company.

Abbott denied that the Crown Media board or Hallmark management had asked Kenin to resign, suggesting only that the longtime cable vet 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. Nor, he added, will there be a major shift in programming direction. "We will stay true to our brand and to family programming." Kenin and his team have put together original movies that will take the cabler through first quarter of next year.

Abbott also described Hallmark ad revenues as "relatively healthy" when 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 Hallmark Movie Channel, now broadcast in both standard and high definition.

Crown Media stock has been trading on the Nasdaq around the $3.00 mark, midway between its 52-week high and low but way off its all-time peak of $20.00 back in 2001.
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