Hallmark Eyes $250M In '08

3/28/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Encouraged by continual ratings improvement, the growing buying power of its Baby-Boomer audience and a vastly expanded slate of its bread-and-butter telefilms, Hallmark Channel is eyeing a 20% run-up in advertising sales for 2008.

Officials for the family-friendly service, speaking at last week's upfront presentation in New York, anticipate that advertising dollars could approach the $250 million mark this year.

At the event, Hallmark announced it would ramp up its original movie lineup from 18 films in 2007 to 30 this go round, and that it has also acquired the rights to 99 theatricals from Disney-ABC Domestic Television, product that not only will stock the flagship channel, but its spin-off the Hallmark Movie Channel, which is set to launch in the high-definition format April 2.

With several days until the first quarter concludes, Hallmark officials said the network projects to finish with a 1.2 household rating average in primetime and a 0.7 in total-day, good for 10th.

Bill Abbott, executive vice president of advertising sales for Crown Media, noting that Hallmark had taken up residence in ad-supported cable's top 10 for 21 consecutive months, reminded attendees that he had spoken about the brand's momentum at last year's upfront. He then said that “momentum had accelerated” this year.

Ratings amelioration aside, Abbott's optimism emanates from Hallmark's even stronger position with a pair of key advertising metrics: C3, average commercial ratings, plus three days of digital video recorder playback, which has become the currency for 90% of all ad deals; and “its corollary, audience retention.”

He said Hallmark ranked first in C3, with 96.5% of viewers watching spots run on its air in primetime, and was also tops relative to audiences staying through the commercials on the network, at 97%.

Predicting that cable would reap the rewards of its continued upswing in ratings, Abbott forecast that the medium would capture double-digit advances in CPMs this upfront season, and that Hallmark would not only “capitalize on the market, but remain a leader in it.”

Abbott said that Hallmark rang up a 20% advance a year ago to cross the $200 million ad sales plateau in 2007.

Later, Crown Media president and CEO Henry Schleiff pegged 2007 ad sales at $205 million and told Multichannel News that he anticipates a 20% rise in 2008, a ratio that would push the family-friendly service's take close to a quarter of a billion dollars.

Hallmark's Benchmarks
The network in 2008, by the numbers:
SOURCE: Multichannel News research
Original movies: 30, up from 18 in 2007
Theatricals: Rights to 99 Disney-ABC Domestic Television titles
Ad-sales projection: Approx. $250 million, up 20% from 2007

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