Hallmark Channel owner
Crown Media is in the final stages of
negotiations with former Court TV President
Henry Schleiff to fill its vacant CEO slot.
Schleiff would replace David Evans, who
resigned in May after controlling shareholder Hallmark
Cards failed to find a buyer for the company.
Schleiff has been parked at Time Warner
Inc. headquarters since the media giant took full control of Court
TV last May, buying out longtime partner Liberty
Media. But Schleiff is too restless an executive to take a long
break, much less retire.
Hallmark is most likely impressed with the speed with which Schleiff
orchestrated Court TV's dramatic turnaround. Schleiff, a lawyer and former
Viacom syndication executive, stepped into
Court TV in 1998 when the network was stuck in Nielsen's basement with a miserable 0.2 rating. While
keeping the daytime coverage of live trials, he scrapped the primetime slate of
legal news and talk shows, buying syndicated programming like
NYPD Blue. Ratings instantly tripled, and
Schleiff later created an all-original slate of primetime non-fiction crime and
Crown Media and Schleiff would not comment. Crown's problems are
dramatic. In the Nielsens, Hallmark Channel is a winner, a top-10 network that
grew its primetime audience 28% during the third quarter, though attracting
primarily older viewers. Crown has run up more than $1.4 billion in losses
domestically and overseas since 2000.