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Hallmark Channel plays family-friendly card

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In the fierce battle among proliferating ad-supported cable networks for carriage and advertising dollars, the Hallmark Channel is playing its numbers card.
The channel, now called the Odyssey Network but in the process of being rebranded as the Hallmark Channel, commissioned a national study of current viewing habits and attitudes, in which respondents expressed an actual interest in watching more TV-as long as it’s the high-quality, family-friendly sort.
That study, by Yankelovich Partners, finds, as have other recent studies, a large majority of viewers who think there is too much sex on TV (75 percent), too much violence (81 percent) and too much “foul” language (73 percent).
Because of this, in homes with minor children, 53 percent of viewers feel forced to scatter TVs around the house for age-appropriate programming despite a sense among 63 percent of parents that it’s important to watch TV together with their children; in fact, 42 percent of viewers surveyed said they would watch more television if there were more “quality” shows that appealed to adults without being inappropriate for their children.
Television watching is America’s main leisure-time activity, with a typical viewer tuning in some 30 hours per week, notes Dr. Hal Quinley, executive vice president of Yankelovich Partners, who administered the Hallmark survey. Yet large majorities of viewers are dissatisfied with the programming they view while maintaining they would watch even more TV if the programs were of better quality. “Clearly that phenomenon is there,” Dr. Quinley said.
This is where the soon-to-be Hallmark Channel, which is developing a new weekly half-hour Muppets series, comes in.
Other programs in development include a scripted series about an ethics professor and his students, a one-hour documentary series about great historical figures and their personal relationships, a documentary series about people in the process of adopting children, a weekly hour magazine about moral and ethical issues that affect the American family, a parenting show and a talk show. The channel also has access to both the Jim Henson and Hallmark Entertainment libraries, including the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” shows, which for the first time will be available to outside advertisers.
“To advertisers and operators [we] say, `We know it’s a crowded marketplace, we know operators who have a lot of choices with a lot of channels and advertisers who have a lot of channels [to choose from],”’ said Margaret Loesch, president and CEO of Crown Media United States for the Hallmark Channel U.S. “But if you pay attention to what the public is saying, they’re saying they’ll come to a channel like this that offers this type of programming, targeted to adults, but programming you don’t have to ask your children to leave the room [to watch].”
In the battle for brand identity, Hallmark feels it’s found a heretofore unidentified “broad” niche, Ms. Loesch said: adults 18 to 54 who want kid-friendly TV that isn’t “pap or appealing to the lowest common denominator.”
Of course, that’s what culturally and religiously conservative groups have been demanding for years. “There’s another group that isn’t organized that’s probably the loudest complainer, and that’s moms,” said Ms. Loesch. “Moms call the networks, moms call the advertisers, moms call the clients, moms call the cable operators. … It’s the same mother that is saying, `I don’t want to have to watch children’s programs all day. Can’t there be programming for me, the adult, that I don’t have to ask my child to leave the room?”’