Hallmark’s Social Holiday

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Hallmark Channel is supporting its annual
holiday programming initiative with an aggressive socialmedia
campaign that it hopes will have viewers caroling
about its holiday movies online and on social sites like
Facebook and Twitter.

The “Countdown to Christmas”
slate of 14 original holiday movies,
along with two original animated
Christmas specials, will all
have unique ties online through
hallmarkchannel.com microsites,
as well as Facebook and
Twitter, to build audience awareness
and tune-in incentives, Hallmark
Channel CEO Bill Abbott
said.

Social-media participation
is growing significantly among
the network’s 25-54 target demographic,
Abbott said. “We’re
seeing more and more of an eagerness
among viewers to view
and interact with our outside of
the television space,” he said.
“We’re looking to create a greater
engagement with our viewers, so
if we have an opportunity to grab
them and keep them in our environment, then that’s certainly
something that we want to do.”

VIEWERS ‘SNEAK’ IN

Hallmark is already benefiting from the online and socialmedia
investment, even though most of the social-media
elements have yet to be launched, Abbott said.

The programmer drew more than 3 million combined
users to its Web
site during the
Nov. 5-6 “sneak
preview” debuts
of Love’s
Christmas Journey
and Mistletoe Over
Manhattan
, respectively —
about three
times the usage
for the same period
last year.

Mistletoe averaged
more
than 2.2 million
total viewers for
its Sunday-night
premiere, good for No. 2 among ad-supported cable movies
on the night, according to Hallmark.

Journey averaged more than 2.1 million viewers in its
8 p.m.-midnight slot on Saturday, to rank No. 3 in the adsupported
cable movie ranks for the week, the programmer
said.

Beginning with the Nov. 19 premiere of The Case for
Christmas
and running through Christmas Comes Home
to Canaan
on Dec. 17, each Saturday original movie will
feature on-screen keyables or alerts to prompt viewers to
log into hallmarkchannel.com/countdown for more information
and related content.

The site will let viewers access exclusive content, including
video elements, holiday recipes and coupons for Hallmark
Cards.

The site also will link viewers to military-based charity
Marine Toys for Tots, encouraging donations.

Each movie-specific online element will feature a
Christmas ornament for viewers to click onto that will expire
at the end of the movie.

Hallmark Channel has partnered with entertainmentbased
social media site GetGlue to provide “stickers” when
viewers check into the site during the movie’s airing, as
well as an overall “Countdown to Christmas 2011” sticker.
A GetGlue widget will appear on Hallmark’s Facebook
page, from which viewers can access all of the available
stickers.

In December, Hallmark will fully jump into the interactive
space by offering QR codes during Annie Claus Is
Coming to Town
(Dec. 16) and Christmas Comes Home to
Canaan
(Dec. 17), Abbott said.

On-screen codes will alert viewers to hold their smartphones
to the television screen to access content such as
MP3 versions of original songs written exclusively for Hallmark
by Billy Ray Cyrus, Richard Marx and Bryan Adams
and an exclusive Cyrus music video for the Canaan theme
song. (Cyrus stars in the film.)

ON ITUNES STORE

For users of Apple’s iTunes platform, Hallmark Channel
will for the first time offer its holiday programming as well
as music products via a special “Countdown to Christmas
Room” in the iTunes Store.

Abbott said the network will look at adopting similar
social media outreach campaigns for other “countdown”
related programming stunts, although he would not provide
specific details.

“We look at this as a long-term type of opportunity
where viewers look to interact and connect with our content,
our network, our traditions and overall what the Hallmark
Channel brand is about. We’re really excited about
the [social media] opportunities and the prospects that we
have across the whole year,” he said.

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