Upfronts 2010: Hallmark Making 'Lifestyle' Changes

Hallmark Movie Channel to be Nielsen rated, launch original movies

Hallmark Channel is making a major push into the lifestyle arena with its deal with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. At its upfront presentation in New York Tuesday (March 23), the network said that the Martha deal allows the channel to attract new advertisers, while also expanding the relationship with some of its current partners.

With its family-friendly brand, lifestyle programming is a natural fit for Hallmark, though Hallmark Channels President and CEO Bill Abbott says the evenings will still focus on original movies and specials.

At the heart of the daytime lifestyle lineup will be new episodes of The Martha Stewart Show, which is joining the cabler in September. That program will be followed by a talk show still in development, which Abbott likened to the fourth hour of NBC's Today. Stewart will not host the program, but will be a regular contributor. At noon, the network will program a half-hour cooking show. Programs from the MSLO library, as well as new shows being developed by the media company, will be slotted in the early afternoons.

Adding more lifestyle programming also allows Hallmark to differentiate itself from sister network Hallmark Movie Channel. Abbott says that the movie channel will be rated by Nielsen starting in Q2 2010, and will be in 40 million homes by the end of Q4.

It will also be launching more original movies of its own, four in 2010, with plans for six or more in 2011.

The larger Hallmark Channel is still committing to original movies, with 24 on tap for 2010, and possibly even more coming down the pipe in 2011. The network will also be putting added focus around "celebrations," especially around holidays and events like spring cleaning. For Christmas 2010, the network will have seven original movies tied to the holiday, which will be rolled out beginning in early November.

"Original movies will continue to be the centerpiece of our prime time schedule as we broaden our entire programming mix and as we transition our daytime to home and lifestyle-oriented programming," said Barbara Fisher, senior VP, programming, Hallmark Channel, in a statement.   "We're especially  excited to also  be  developing original movies now that will premiere on our burgeoning Hallmark Movie Channel, beginning next month with The Wild Girl, starring Brian Austin Green, and with more movies planned later this year and next."