Hallmark Channel at 15: From Kittens to Mariah, How the Network Keeps the Emotion in Motion

9:00 AM 8/8/2016

by Kate Stanhope

A clear sense of the brand and viewers' expectations has enabled the channel's programming team to build on its successful content blocks.

A Gentle Heart H 2016
Eike Schroder/Hallmark Channel
  • Animal-Centered Specials

    Since the launch of the annual Hero Dog Awards in 2011, Hallmark increasingly has employed four-legged friends for specials, including Kitten Bowl and Kitten Summer Games, the latter of which will debut Aug. 5 opposite the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics. "It's very family-friendly programming," says Hallmark CEO Bill Abbott. "It's the type of content that catches fire, literally and socially, and provides us great opportunities to expand our business. It's an area that we think we can do even more in moving forward."

  • Daytime Programming

    The bedrock of Hallmark's daytime programming is Home & Family, which airs five days a week, two hours a day. Originally on The Family Channel from 1996 to '98, it was revived with new hosts by Abbott, who previously had worked at TFC and then Fox Family Channel. Former View co-host Debbie Matenopoulos signed on in June to replace longtime personality Cristina Ferrare alongside Mark Steines for season five, which recently started filming. "[Viewers] want to get to know our talent better," says Abbott.

  • Original Scripted Series

    Since Cedar Cove's debut in 2013, Hallmark's scripted series slate has expanded to include When Calls the Heart and The Good Witch, a spinoff of the channel's TV movie of the same name. The network's next hourlong drama, Chesapeake Shores, debuts Aug. 14. The series stars Once Upon a Time alum Meghan Ory and Desperate Housewives grad Jesse Metcalfe. "Certainly our focus is on adults 25 to 54 that are looking for a lot more emotional experience in a movie or series space," says Abbott.

  • Original Movies

    The number of original movies has surged from four in 2001 to 52 in 2016, with 59 expected in 2017. A huge part of that slate is the annual Countdown to Christmas two-month event, which has given the network an impressive ratings boost among women ages 25-to-54 as well as total viewers. Last year's event included Mariah Carey's directorial debut, A Christmas Melody, in which she also co-starred; the film led to her three-pic deal with the network. Similar events tied to Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving since have been launched.