Rising Revenue Marks Crowning Quarter

5/09/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Fueled by continued ratings growth, Crown Media, parent of Hallmark Channel, reported a 32% increase in revenue to $70.6 million in the first quarter.

Ratings for Hallmark Channel continued to remain strong — the network remained in the Top 10 of ad-supported cable networks for the 22nd consecutive month in March — which in turn led to robust advertising revenue growth. Ad revenue rose 23% in the quarter.

On a conference call with analysts, Crown CEO Henry Schleiff said that ad-growth momentum is expected to carry into the upfronts. Schleiff said that current scatter-market cost-per-thousand (CPM) pricing is 71% above last year's upfront, compared to some of the channel's competitors who had scatter CPMs that were on average 15% above the upfront.

“We are highly confident about our prospects for this year's upfront season,” Schleiff said.

Hallmark Channel also increased its subscriber base by about 11% in the period to 84 million. The network completed a spate of distribution agreements in the past year and on April 29 completed the last of its big cable-operator renewal deals with Cablevision Systems. Schleiff said that its carriage deal with Charter Communications, which represents about 5 million customers, expires at the end of the year, but he expects a deal favorable to both parties can be reached.

Schleiff also praised the launch of its HD Hallmark Movie Channel. The network, launched in March, already has about 8 million customers.

“We will continue to push for the expanded distribution of Hallmark Movie Channel throughout the U.S.,” Schleiff said on a conference call with analysts.

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