Cable TV Upfronts 2009: Hallmark Channel Looks To Hold The Line

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Cable TV Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage From Multichannel News  

Hallmark Channel, continuing to push its family-friendly telefilm fare and attendant brand positioning, is cautiously optimistic about the 2009-10 upfront advertising season.
Increasing its telefilm development slate to what it says will be an industry-best 35 movies, Hallmark is touting its top 10 audience delivery in primetime and strength with its target demos of women 25 to 54 and adults of that age as it courts about 175 clients and agencies.
At a press lunch here today, the programmer rolled out data from Nielsen Fusion Metrics indicating that its cross-platform sponsorship opportunities via Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel and their respective Web sites, plus the 4,000 Hallmark Gold Crown stores and various other retail outlets that sell its cards and other products, reach 65.5% of all U.S. homes. This group accounts for $280 billion in annual spending in the packaged goods arena, with Hallmark brand enthusiasts overindexing in category spending by 10%, compared with all U.S. homes.
The results are important for Hallmark, which derives about one-third of its ad revenue from the large category. Bill Abbott, executive vice president of advertising sales, said in an interview at the press event that other key sectors for the network include pharmaceuticals, "retail, which has held up surprisingly well and the entertainment category, which has been very strong for us."
Like other networks, Hallmark has been hit by downturn in the automotive and financial sectors, but the channel doesn't have a particularly big exposure to either, he said.
Abbott said Hallmark Movie Channel, which has seen 100% growth year-to-year, is also providing a boost. The service, currently in about 15 million homes, expects to be in the 30 million range, when it becomes Nielsen-rated for the first time in the first quarter of 2010.
Hallmark Movie Channel offers a combination of theatricals, "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentations, Hallmark Channel telefilms and miniseries and other event programming.
Last year, Abbott said Hallmark enjoyed a strong upfront season, selling about 55% of its inventory. While he won't project a potential sell-through level for the upcoming upfront, Abbott said it's important that Hallmark hold the line.
"It's not our position to roll back pricing," he said, noting that Hallmark's CPMs represent greater value than many cable networks because they come off of a relatively low base -- the channel is only eight years old, after being relaunched from Odyssey Network.
He anticipates that cable will do well relative to broadcast in general, with Hallmark mirroring the industry's performance. Whether that means 5% growth, a flat performance, or a decrease, Abbott declined to predict at this juncture.
As for current marketplace, Abbott said Hallmark's ad base was "pretty healthy" in the first quarter and that comes in the context of a very strong opening period a year ago. He said the programmer was "pacing well" against last year in the second quarter.

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