Hallmark to Launch Movie Channel

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Buoyed by the success of its movie franchise, Hallmark Channel will launch a separate 24-hour movie service beginning in January.

The service will feature movies from the more than 4,000 hours of programming from the library of Hallmark Channel owner Crown Media Holdings Inc., as well as Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. The network will not initially offer made-for Hallmark Channel films. Network officials have talked with operators about the digital service, but they admittedly have "low" distribution expectations.

Crown president and CEO David Evans said during a Tuesday-morning press conference that the network will not require significant start-up fees since content-licensing deals and uplink facilities are already in place.

Hallmark also announced that it has acquired distribution rights to classic television series Diagnosis Murder and Magnum P.I.

Murder, starring Dick Van Dike and airing on Pax TV, will premiere on the network in 2005, while Magnum, which features Tom Selleck and runs on A&E Network, will bow on Hallmark in January 2004. Terms of either deal were not disclosed.

On the marketing side, Hallmark will once again launch a "Holiday Sweepstakes" promotion supporting the network's five weeks of holiday programming.

The promotion -- which will net the winner a trip to Hollywood and a walk-on role in a Hallmark original movie -- will be touted via spots on the network, as well as through the 4.300 Hallmark Gold Crown stores nationwide.

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