Seeking User-Generated Romance

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Want to give your honey a very special Valentine's Day gift? Hallmark Channel will animate the best viewer-submitted stories of romance and love, and screen them on the network — and its online platform — in February as part of a new interactive programming initiative.

The “Tell Us Your Story” campaign invites viewers to submit video or penned pieces describing a romantic moment with their significant other, or expressions of love for a family member or friend, via the network's Web site, www.hallmarkchannel.com. The network will then create short, animated videos based on approximately 10 of the submissions to air as interstitials on the network, and to appear on the Web site, beginning next February, according to Hallmark Channel executive vice president for programming David Kenin. The shorts will support the network's month-long lineup of romance movies.

CALL TO ACTION

The network will support the campaign with on-air, call-to-action spots that began running last week. Kenin said the idea for the initiative was hatched from the growing popularity of user-generated content on Web sites such as Youtube.com and MySpace.com.

“What we've seen develop over time is the desire of individuals to communicate with others,” he said. “We think this will be another Hallmark brand-friendly activity that will provide an opportunity for us to talk to our audience and for them to talk to each other.”

Kenin also hopes the initiative will drive viewers to the Web site, which he concedes has not attracted myriad users. The site currently features information on Hallmark Channel series and movies, but lacks extensive video content.

“I'm looking for us to build traffic to the site and then give people a reason to keep coming back,” he said. “We want to develop content that's exclusive to the site.”

If the “Tell Us Your Story” campaign proves successful, Kenin said, the network could expand the interactive initiative beyond the Valentine's Day period. “We may do this year round,” he said. “We're hoping to generate a library of content for other holidays like Christmas that would allow us to enhance and deepen that viewer experience, as well as the loyalty that viewers feel for us.”

TELEFILM PRODUCTION

Elsewhere, RHI Entertainment, a unit of RHI Enterprises, announced last week that it would produce no fewer than a dozen telefilms and three miniseries for Hallmark Channel. Company officials said three of original movies are already in production: Claire, starring Valerie Bertinelli (Touched by an Angel) as widowed mother of two who has psychic powers; In Spring Thaw, featuring Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) as a tough New York City attorney trying to reconnect with her ailing father; and romantic comedy Love Is a Four Letter Word.

On Oct. 5, the day after Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Holdings named former Court TV chief Henry Schleiff its president and CEO, the company sold domestic rights to its film library, encompassing some 600 titles, for $160 million to RHI Enterprises, the Robert Halmi father-and-son company.

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