Maya Angelou Series to Air on Hallmark Channel

11:14 AM PST 03/23/2011 by Georg Szalai
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The net will also air a new Emeril Lagasse show, its first-ever original musical film and more Martha Stewart primetime interview specials, while the Hallmark Movie Channel will reunite Jason Priestley and Luke Perry for "Goodnight for Justice 2."

NEW YORK -- An unscripted lifestyle series with Maya Angelou, its first-ever original musical film and more Martha Stewart primetime interview specials under the Martha Stewart Presents banner are among the Hallmark Channel's programming slate for 2011-12.

In a lunch time upfront presentation Wednesday, the network also confirmed the launch of the previously unnamed Emeril's Table, a new daily cooking show featuring Emeril Lagasse, which will debut in the fourth quarter and got a 52 half-hour episode order.

The new 13-episode series hosted by poet and civil rights activist Angelou is called The Spirit Table and will feature the host and well-known guests sharing life stories and cooking, executives said, adding that the show is targeted for a primetime run with a launch in early 2012.

In a first major integrated holiday season campaign with Crown Media majority owner Hallmark Cards, the Hallmark Channel will late this year air Jingle All the Way, a half-hour animated Christmas special featuring bestselling Hallmark Cards character Jingle the Husky Pup. The collaboration includes in-store exposure for Hallmark Channel and a link to Hallmarkchannel.com from Hallmark.com’s Interactive Storybook and Story Buddies page. The collaboration follows Hallmark Channel's use of Hallmark Cards favorites hoops & yoyo, a whimsical pink kitty and green bunny duo, which will return to the network for hosted program wraps this holiday season.

Meanwhile, Stewart and her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia have been a key programming partner for Hallmark Channel as it has focused on lifestyle content. Network executives said Stewart will account for 160 hours of around 500 hours of original programming for the new programming year, with primetime interviews with famous personalities here and there continuing after the success of her first interview specials. The Martha Stewart Show will premiere its seventh season in September. Meanwhile, Petkeeping with Marc Morrone will return for a second season starting in January.

Hallmark Channel previously acquired Frasier and set the hit comedy for an April 8 debut.

Among 25 original movies scheduled for the Hallmark Channel will be The Music Teacher, the channel's first foray into musicals, and A Princess for Christmas with Roger Moore of James Bond fame. Billy Ray Cyrus, Adrian Pasdar, James Patrick Stuart and Judd Nelson are among the other stars set for Hallmark Channel original movies.

The growing Hallmark Movie Channel will feature four original films this year and double that to eight next year. After January's world premiere of the Luke Perry and Jason Priestley collaboration Goodnight for Justice, directed by  Priestley and starring Perry, Hallmark Movie Channel is developing Goodnight for Justice 2, the executive team unveiled Wednesday. The first film was the network's highest-rated film of all time.

Also on Wednesday, Crown Media Holdings president and CEO Bill Abbott unveiled that Crown Media Networks is the new umbrella name for the company's two cable networks, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. They were previously known under the name Hallmark Channels. He said the name change will help emphasize to distributors and advertisers that the company has two distinct networks.

“As our portfolio of television and online businesses expand, we saw a need to realign Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel as distinct media offerings within the Crown Media family to more accurately reflect the value each of these business units contributes to our company,” said Abbott, who is also president and CEO of Crown Media Networks. “The new moniker, Crown Media Networks, positions these offerings as a solid business unit to the benefit of our investors, advertisers, and business partners alike.”

Discussing the Jingle the Husky Pup collaboration with Hallmark Cards, Abbott said: “This partnership creates a natural synergy between Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Cards in the true spirit of our brand, allowing viewers and consumers to celebrate the holidays in a fun and interactive way." Added Michelle Vicary, executive vp, programming for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel: "Synergy between Hallmark Cards and Hallmark Channel has created limitless original programming possibilities."

Asked about the competitive landscape, which now includes OWN, the network joint venture of Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications, Abbott said "it speaks certainly to how crowded [the market] is" and has a strong brand. He argued though that the Hallmark Channel doesn't compete so much with individual networks, but awareness in the overall cable space. 

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