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Schleiff Named to Head Crown Media Holdings

Oct 4, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Crown Media Holdings, owner of the Hallmark Channel, on Wednesday named Henry Schleiff president and CEO, effective immediately.

Mr. Schleiff, who stepped down as CEO of Court TV in June after the network was acquired by Time Warner, faces some familiar challenges in turning around a money-losing, independent channel getting little financial support from its cable distributors.

Unlike Court TV, Mr. Schleiff said Hallmark doesn’t need to create a brand. “It stands for family-friendly programming; it stands for values. It’s almost counterprogramming to what’s out there,” he said.

Mr. Schleiff said he plans to lower the older-skewing network’s median age and take advantage of advertisers’ growing interest in the baby boomer generation. He said he’ll do that by adding cost-effective, nonfiction lifestyle programming into Hallmark’s mix, which includes off-network shows and original movies.

Mr. Schleiff wouldn’t say whether any other Court TV alumni will be joining him at Hallmark. He praises Hallmark’s senior executive team, which has survived the network’s being for sale by its parent company, then taken off the block, and working without a CEO. “These guys have been through every possible storm you can imagine,” he said.

While Hallmark’s ratings and ad revenues are growing, its financial difficulties stem from the fact that its current agreements with cable operators pay only a few cents per sub per month—less than other networks that generate similar audiences. Several of those agreement are about to expire, which means Hallmark Channel will have to negotiate new deals at a time when operators are taking a tougher stance against programming cost increases.

“Piece of cake,” Mr. Schleiff said. “These guys are smart at the end of the day. I’m very sanguine negotiations will come to a fair and appropriate conclusion.”

Mr. Schleiff said that turning around the network and selling it to a larger programmer isn’t his target. His deal with Court TV gave him a share of the increase in the value of the channel when Liberty Media’s 50 percent interest was sold to Time Warner for $865 million. He said in his new employment agreement his interests are “well aligned with the network and Crown Media.”