Longtime Hallmark executive David Kenin is leaving the network after seven years as its programming chief, according to officials at the programmer.
Kenin's departure on May 31 follows news that Henry Schleiff is stepping down as CEO of Hallmark Channel's parent Crown Media, also at month's end.
"I was asked to resign and I was fine with it," Kenin told Multichannel News Tuesday afternoon. "There's a brand new administration and these guys are going to work very hard to get things right, and I felt they should be choosing the people they wanted."
Barbara Fisher, senior vice president, original programming, and Michelle Vicary, senior vice president, acquisitions and scheduling, will share Kenin's responsibilities until a replacement is named.
"During David's tenure, Hallmark Channel has become firmly established as a leading family-friendly entertainment channel while Hallmark Movie Channel has been successfully launched as an emerging network in high demand," said Bill Abbott, recently named president and CEO of Crown Media, in a statement. "We thank this extremely talented media executive for his tremendous contributions to our company. David leaves us with a strong and experienced management team that is ready to meet the challenges ahead."
Kenin, who joined Hallmark in 2002, last year led the network to its highest primetime ratings in its history through the development of successful original movies. The network finished 2008 averaging 1.3 million viewers in primetime, an increase of 7% over the same period in 2007. The network also delivered all-time highs for such key demos as women18 to 49 (156,000) women 25 to 54 (207,000), adults 18 to 49 (235,000) and adults 25 to 54 (316,000).
In first quarter 2009, the network averaged 1.0 million viewers, even with first quarter 2008.
"Largely on the shoulders of our original movies that were purely Hallmark, I feel we did what we needed out to do, which was to become a top 10 network," said Kenin. "I would have liked to have stayed because I feel we had other things to do, but with the change I wasn't sure I was the right guy to be in command."
Asked if he felt frustration at not being able to develop scripted series, Kenin replied: "It was what I wanted to do, but I recognize the financial situation that exists here. It wasn't something I felt frustrated about."
Prior to joining Hallmark, Kenin served as president of CBS Sports, where he oversaw the rebuilding of the division through extensive acquisition and renewal of such sports rights as the NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball Tournament, the U.S. Open tennis championship and The Masters golf tournament.
Kenin also spent 12 years at USA Network, where he helped it become No. 1 in basic cable, launching such original content as Silk Stalkings. Besides his innovations at the USA Network, Kenin is also credited as an architect of the Sci Fi Channel, overseeing its branding and programming initiatives.
Looking ahead, Kenin hopes to remain part of the TV community.
"I will look for an opportunity if something presents itself," he said. "There are a lot of things going on in the industry and I would like to be a part of that."