Could this be the least-expensive network startup ever: around $200,000 a year? That's the contention of Hallmark Channel executives as they prepare to spin off a movie network, predictably called Hallmark Movie Channel.
Scheduled to launch in January, the service is planned as a low-cost network as a bonus for operators to put on their digital tiers. David Evans, CEO of Hallmark Channel owner Crown Media, said the ad-supported channel "is really as much an initiative for distributing our core channel."
The core Hallmark Channel is in about 54 million homes, but the network is on high tiers in some cable systems, not the basic tier all subscribers get.
Since Hallmark is already paying significant launch fees for carriage of the main channel, Crown executives want to have something to offer other than cash.
The network will run five movies per day, shown in a block repeated three times. The films will be either produced by Hallmark Entertainment, like the miniseries Moby Dick, or from Hollywood studios.
Hallmark executives say that the programming costs are built into their existing license deals from Hallmark Entertainment, so there are minimal incremental programming costs.