Crown Media Seeks Bucks From Books

Though they're not the hot broadcast property they once were, Crown Media Holdings president David Evans believes there's still a growing market for movies and miniseries based on the literary classics.

Crown Media — parent of Odyssey Network —plans to explore those possibilities when it closes its deal to acquire some 700 films from the library of Hallmark Entertainment Distribution LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TV production giant Hallmark Entertainment Inc. The deal is expected to close in June.

In moving away from what Evans called "essentially an output deal" with Hallmark Entertainment, Crown Media will immediately reduce its license fees while gaining greater scheduling control of this diverse and Emmy-laden library for its Hallmark Channel properties in the U.S. and around the globe. (Odyssey is slated to rebrand itself as Hallmark Channel later this year.)

Evans also believes the company can derive revenues from the domestic licensing of its films and miniseries.

"There are an increasing number of cable channels that have interest in quality TV productions based on great literature," he said. "I would expect we will find interested parties in cable or syndication for Lonesome Dove, Alice In Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels
or Arabian Nights
and others."

Under terms of an agreement announced in April, Crown Media will assume $220 million of Hallmark Entertainment debt and payables and pay some $600 million in cash. Crown plans to raise the cash by issuing shares of its Class A stock.

The deal is subject to several conditions, including stockholder approval.