Hallmark sees changes in response to the decline in broadcast television
Hallmark, like many other networks, has seen an overall decline in television viewership in recent years. But the network has plans, executives hinted at in recent interviews. Here’s what we know so far.
The network intends to restart its SVOD services
CNBC reported that Hallmark is seeing a decline in viewership each year, despite the network having some big hits. December 2022 saw about 40% fewer viewers than five years earlier, CNBC reported. And 2022 was generally down 20% compared to 2018. Even so, Hallmark still walked away with the most household viewers of any entertainment cable network in the final quarter of the year, indicating that linear TV is dead for everyone.
Although the numbers are down overall compared to five years ago, there will still be some big hits that stand out. In terms of live/same-day viewership, “Three Wise Men & a Baby” garnered 3.626 million views. That was more than the top film of 2021 – “Christmas at Castle Hart” – which saw 3.31 million viewers. However, the 2014 film Christmas Under Wraps still holds the record for being the most-watched on the night of its premiere, with almost six million viewers.
Hallmark Media CEO Wonya Lucas told CNBC that streaming is now a big priority for Hallmark. The network has a subscription streaming service called Hallmark Movies Now and has deals with other pay TV streaming platforms like FuboTV, FrndlyTV and Philo. Lucas also negotiated a new deal with streaming service Peacock this year.
She said CNBC: “When Peacock knocked on the door, I thought it was going to be the same conversation, and I walked in and I was like, ‘Okay, this will be over in about 10 minutes.’ But they had me when they described their services as being fandom-centric.”
Mark Lazarus, head of TV and streaming at NBCUniversal, told CNBC about the Peacock deal, “It took a lot of thinking ahead for Wonya to think, ‘How do I get better distribution and streaming distribution for my content and still maintain it? [traditional pay-TV deals],’ which I believe she successfully navigated.”
Interestingly, the January 2023 announcement when Emily Powers was hired as EVP for Hallmark’s streaming and digital platforms contained a clear indication of big changes to come.
appointment reported: “Powers will also work together across the organization to define the vision, roadmap and strategy for the relaunch of Hallmark Media’s SVOD service, as well as the company’s future AVOD and existing FAST channels.”
(SVOD means “Subscription Video-on-Demand.”)
Lucas told Deadline: “[Powers’] Know-how is particularly important at this stage in the development of our company as the industry continues to move towards streaming and digital distribution.”
Lucas has said she also believes that linear television still has a bright future.
She said CNBC: “I don’t think this is the death of Linear. I just don’t. I think Linear will still be alive and thriving. I think there will be some restructuring of which services survive and which don’t and which will be bundled, and there will be some consolidation. I don’t think everyone can be independent. But I think once we start bundling the costs of all streaming services, eventually you’ll see the same costs as a cable package.”
Hallmark has made some changes recently
Hallmark is expanding and evolving in many areas, including beyond streaming.
in a (n Interview with Vulture In December, Lacey Chabert spoke about Hallmark’s changing formula and how much she enjoyed seeing the changes.
“We’re allowed to carry our storytelling outside of this box that it was put in,” she said. “‘The Wedding Veil’ is the first time they’ve done a true trilogy that aired back-to-back, and now we have a chance to revisit those characters. Often these movies end with people falling in love: the kiss or the quick wedding scene. In The Wedding Veil movies, we can see how these characters are in love, in a relationship and living together in real life. It doesn’t have the nice meet…”
She added that “Sweet Carolina,” which is about a character’s sister who dies suddenly, is also a deeper theme that she’s been hoping to explore for a while. And “Haul Out the Holly” focused on comedy that broke with Hallmark’s formula.
In a June 2022 Interview with TV InsiderRyan Paevey predicted the big changes for Hallmark.
He said: “It’s rare to find a place like Hallmark that consistently offers feel-good stuff. We are accused of being a bit repetitive. Those in power know this. The basic storylines and equations are beginning to change. Becoming more inclusive, encompassing a wider range of content and topics to more closely reflect real life.”
But he said the core of what makes Hallmark “Hallmark” would remain.
“The core is still the same,” he says. “The stuff we have should be able to smile a little wider after watching it.”
CONTINUE READING: View deleted scenes from Three Wise Men and a Baby
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