As reported first in this week’s Broadcasting & Cable, former Court TV President Henry Schleiff is moving to Hallmark Channel to fill the vacant President/CEO slot.
Schleiff, who quickly molded Court into a top-rated network with significant brand equity, will now look to give old-skewing Hallmark a facelift of its own. He replaces David Evans, who resigned in May after controlling shareholder Hallmark Cards failed to find a buyer for the company, which was on the block.
“With Court TV, we really had to create a presence, to create a brand where there was really none,” Schleiff tells B&C. “Here the challenge – the opportunity, I’m happy to say – is to take advantage of one of the most well-respected, well-regarded names in America.”
Schleiff, who will continue to be based in New York but travel frequently to Hallmark headquarters in LA, has been on a short break since Time Warner Inc. took full control of Court TV last may, buying out its longtime partner Liberty Media. Having speedily orchestrated a turnaround for Court TV when he joined the crime and justice network in Oct., 1998 as President and CEO, he will try to do the same with the struggling, old-skewing Hallmark Channel.
Hallmark finds itself in the position of being a top rated channel, but skewing very old. The network grew its primetime audience by 28% in third quarter, but largely with older viewers, and Hallmark is stuck with low subscriber rates of just pennies per month. Hallmark parent Crown Media has also accumulated more than $1.4 billion in losses domestically and abroad since 2000.
Schleiff says he will try endear the network to operators by programming to the 25-54 audience likely to pay their household’s cable bill. His first priority is developing original series that “shouts the kind of quality and values, let alone family friendly programming for which the Hallmark brand is known.”
“The Hallmark viewer is the one paying the bills unlike, often times, the viewer of 50 of the other 60 networks that the cable operator carries because they appeal to considerably younger demos,” he says.
At Court, where he was Chairman/CEO from 1999 to 2006, Schleiff replaced the network’s primetime slate of legal news and talk shows with syndicated programming and acquired shows like NYPD Blue, instantly tripling ratings. He later oversaw creation of a slate of original shows.
Before Court, Schleiff held positions at HBO, Viacom and Studios USA.