Making Quality Series Its New HallmarkCrown Media’s Vicary sees original fare as ‘next step’ for family network 12/24/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
While Hallmark Channel has long established itself
as a destination for family-friendly movies, Michelle
Vicary, executive VP of programming for Crown
Media Family Networks (which operates Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel)
is looking to push the network into new
arenas and areas of distinction in 2013.
And how does she go about doing that?
“Original series, of course, is the answer,”
Vicary said. “We think that it is a natural
extension of what we already do, which is
tell great stories.”
Bill Abbott, president
and CEO of
Crown Media Holdings
and Crown Media
added that Hallmark
is simply complying
with viewer demand.
“We hear all the time
from our audience that
they would love to see
us do original scripted
series,” Abbott said.
Toward that end,
Hallmark greenlit its
first two original scripted
series earlier this
year: Cedar Cove and
When Calls the Heart, with each scheduled
to debut during 2013. Cedar Cove, which
will star Andie MacDowell, is from author
Debbie Macomber, with whom the network
has already worked on three highly
rated movies. “She tells great stories about
relationships and families,” Vicary said.
“We knew that mix would come together.”
When Calls the Heart is from author Janette
Oke, who has also worked extensively
with Hallmark in the past. Vicary said the
familiarity with the writers was one of the
key reasons for choosing these two to be
Hallmark’s first scripted series.
Hallmark’s strategy for each will be to air a two-hour movie that will serve as a backdoor
pilot; the series premiere will follow at
a later date. Cedar Cove is scheduled to premiere
in June 2013, while When Calls the
Heart will air its movie in September 2013
with the series beginning in January 2014.
Vicary noted that leveraging Hallmark’s
reputation for movies
will serve the network’s
continue to develop
that we think can
pilots for series as we
look toward 2014,”
she said, adding that
the goal is to “expand
that original series
slate into three to
four series for 2014.”
While Vicary is
excited for the channel’s
she’s quick to point
out that movies are still the network’s
“hallmark.” That’s never truer than during
the holiday season, which this year
began in early November.
“We looked at our ratings for last year
and saw that when we started earlier, we
actually really put our viewers into the
holiday spirit,” Vicary said. “We’ve had
some of our highest ratings.” Starting
Nov. 9 through the year’s end, Hallmark
will have aired 1,100 hours of holiday
movies, including 12 new original films.
While Vicary has been pleased with the
successful 2012 holiday season so far, she
already has an eye toward next winter.
“We’ll be looking to have that same strategy,
if not a bigger one, for 2013,” she said.
Vicary will celebrate her 14th year at
Hallmark in February and has been in TV
for almost her entire career. She started
out in independent music as VP of marketing
for Evening Star Music Group before
quickly moving to MGM Television
Networks. “I loved it, but I also had a
passion for television,” she explained.
She credits her time at Evening Star for
helping her develop an affinity for taking
some risks. “In independent music, you
have to be entrepreneurial, because you
are really shaping the next music scene
or fan base,” Vicary said.
Since arriving at Hallmark in 1999,
Vicary has risen up the programming ladder,
with much of her experience coming
from the scheduling side. Since she
stepped into the executive VP post last
year, Hallmark Channel has expanded
its content footprint to include a daytime
block of lifestyle programming. The Marie
Osmond-hosted Marie (which replaced
the struggling Martha Stewart Show) and
Home & Family, a do-it-yourself lifestyle
show, have boosted Hallmark in the daytime
space since their October premieres.
Earlier this year, Vicary was honored
as one of Multichannel News’ “Wonder
Women,” a listing of the top dozen female
executives in the industry. “I’m so
lucky to be in an industry where women
have some of the best jobs in the world,”
Vicary said at the time. Abbott, for his
part, said he feels fortunate that Vicary is
working wonders at Hallmark.
“At the end of the day, everybody’s replaceable,
but a certain few people are truly
indispensable at their companies,” Abbott
said. “Michelle is one of those people.”