Fueled by continued ratings growth, Crown Media, parent of the Hallmark Channel, reported a 32% increase in revenue to $70.6 million in the first quarter.
Ratings for the 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 CPM pricing is 71% above last year’s upfront, compared to some of the channel’s competitors that 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 – with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish Network and DirecTV – 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 year-end. Schleiff said that Hallmark has already initiated conversations with Charter and expects that a favorable deal for 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 – 4 million from Dish Network and deals with Time Warner in San Antonio, Texas and New York City.
“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.