Will Hallmark’s Movie Network Rebranding Fly? It’s a Mystery

Programmer To Keep Its Channels’ Content Separate
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Hallmark Channel will flip the switch on its rebranded Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel on Oct. 1 with the hopes that it will curry favor with viewers seeking family-friendly drama and mystery-themed movies and miniseries.

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, a rebrand of the Hallmark Movie Channel, will feature originallyproduced content as well as programming from Hallmark’s library of movies, according to Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks. Abbott added whatever content migrates from Hallmark to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries will air exclusively on the rebranded channel, providing a differentiation factor between the two networks.

“Once content is dedicated to one network it will not cross over and air on another network,” Abbott said. “That’s a big point of difference to the cable landscape because most networks and network groups are very liberal in shifting programming from one network to another, and we don’t want to create that type of confusion with our brand. We want to create something unique in the consumer’s mind and in the viewer’s mind about what they’re getting with Movies and Mysteries and the Hallmark Channel.”

Hallmark will not move any of its current original series to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, but Abbott wouldn’t rule out some original scripted fare ending up on the network. “We are really trying to zero in on what the tone and manner will be for Hallmark Movies and Mysteries,” he said. “The strategy is that drama based in series and tone will move to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, so in that process we’re constantly re-evaluating not only our library, but things that we haven’t developed to determine which network is appropriate.”

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries is one of several networks undergoing rebrands this fall. TVGN, formerly the TV Guide Channel, will rename itself Pop, while kids-targeted network The Hub will take on the Discovery moniker as Discovery Family.

Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Television Media Group, said that rebrands are difficult and often confusing for viewers, but the rebrand of Hallmark Channel to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries should not be as taxing for viewers.

“When you look at a cable or satellite listing at least you have some sense of what it is,” he said. “They have the potential to at least be clear on what they are, and going forward we’ll see if that has the positive impact they’re hoping for.”

For now, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries is planning to air original movies on four consecutive Sundays beginning Oct. 5 with Jesse Stone: Innocence Lost, starring Tom Selleck. The block will also include Garage Sale Mystery: All That Glitters starring Lori Loughlin, the first installment in the network’s planned “Mystery Wheel” of recurring movies under one franchise. The network will produce several other Garage Sale Mystery movies in 2015.

“Bringing high-profile talent will be the strength of the network,” Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Hallmark Channel, said. “The idea is to create great stars, stories and mysteries for the network.”

During holiday season, Hallmark will move most of its dramatic-themed holiday content over to Movies and Mysteries, including some of the highest rated movies in Hallmark history such as The Christmas Card. Overall, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries will offer 1,300 Christmas-themed movies beginning Oct. 31, including two original films, Signed, Sealed and Delivered for Christmas and Christmas Secret.

Abbott said Hallmark Movies and Mysteries will target adults 25 to 54 with a sweet spot of women 25 to 54, which is also Hallmark Channel’s target audience. He said that he is not concerned about siphoning viewers from Hallmark Channel but instead expects Movies and Mysteries to build on its audience. Hallmark Movie Channel averaged 341,000 viewers in primetime this past summer, up 40% from last year.

“We’re not looking to go younger with one or go more male with one,” he said. “I do think Movies and Mysteries will be a strong ratings counterpart to the Hallmark Channel, and I think you’re going to see this holiday an evening out in ratings across both networks. I don’t think the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries takes a back seat to Hallmark or any other cable network.”

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