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Upfronts 2019: Hallmark Drama to double subs to 40 million, bow original shows

Crown Media Family Networks' third linear channel will see changes to its distribution, measurement and programming over the course of 2019.

Hallmark Drama (US) launched Oct. 1, 2017, and now counts nearly 20 million subscribers through affiliate deals with AT&T Inc.'s DIRECTV and U-verse platforms, DISH Network Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and members of the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. It expects to double that total this year.

Ed Georger, executive vice president of ad sales and digital media at Crown Media, told attendees at the company’s March 21 upfront presentation that the network is on "a quick path to 40 million by year-end."

In an interview ahead of the upfront, Bill Abbott, president and CEO of the network group, said Hallmark Drama was "getting close" to deals with another pair of major distributors.

Starting in April, Abbott also said the network will be rated by Nielsen Holdings PLC, which will position the network better, in concert with the expected distribution gains, to attract national advertisers.

The channel, which features movies and series from the company's library of original dramatic content, will take its own original programming plunge, following the seasonal strategy favored by sister networks Hallmark Channel (US) and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries (US). "Christmas Cookie Countdown" is a five-episode competition series featuring amateur bakers in a series of yuletide challenges. The competition judges will be well-known pastry chefs and Hallmark talent.

"Project Christmas Joy: Alabama," meanwhile, will find decorators and designers descending on an Alabama town devastated by a tornado to create a Main Street-makeover and tree-lighting ceremony.

SNL ImageHallmark Channel's "Enchanted Christmas"
Source: Hallmark Channel

Georger also noted that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is bolstering its original roster. The network has entries from a quintet of movie franchises on tap: "Chronicle Mysteries," "Crossword Mysteries," "Picture Perfect Mysteries," "Ruby Herring Mysteries" and "Mystery 101."

Over a two-month period, Hallmark and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries combined to offer 4,400 hours of holiday fare, led by 38 original television films in 2018. The programmer will match its movie output this year, with 22 on the flagship service and 16 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

The programming slate of holiday movies "Countdown to Christmas," which will celebrate its 10th run in 2019, made the Hallmark Channel the most watched cable network in fourth quarter 2018 among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54.