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Crown Media Bucks Trend With Higher Upfront Volume

In an upfront market in which spending on cable advertising appears to be down at least 5%, independent Crown Media is posting increases instead.

Ed Georger, executive VP for ad sales, says Crown as just about wrapped up its upfront sales and that volume is up at both Hallmark Channel and the newly renamed Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

“Crown Media was an exception” to the pattern of lower upfront volume for cable channels, Georger said. Sales were up by mid-single digits on Hallmark and jumped by double digits on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, he said.

Georger was able to increase volume without dropping prices. He says rates on a cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) basis were up by low to mid single digits, on the low side of range of pricing other cable networks appear to be getting. Increasing volume while not losing ground on pricing was important to Crown, he says.

“I’ve been asked how did you get that done and I think that the value proposition is one that helps us in a market where there may be some hesitation to spend more or to look further down the road as marketers are looking at their options,” Georger says. “There’s clearly some value put on Crown Media and the reliable family-friendly environment and the strength of the brand.”

Hallmark’s holiday programming was able to attract fourth quarter business from retailers, who weren’t big spenders elsewhere in the market. Hallmark’s original series were also popular.

Georger also says that being a smaller, independent group was an advantage in this market. “We are a group that has two very strong networks, but we are nimble in the market place and we’re large enough that we can get into conversations early and have negotiations that ran very smoothly.”

More detailed information about Crown’s upfront and scatter results will be made available when the company reports second quarter earnings on Friday.