Crown Media Sells Film Library

Aiming to hack away at its dramatic debt, Hallmark Channel parent company Crown Media is selling domestic rights to its film library to RHI Enterprises for $160 million. RHI, the production company helmed by father/son team Robert Halmi Sr. and Jr., makes the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movies.

The Halmis have had a back-and-forth relationship with Hallmark for years. Hallmark Cards eventually bought RHI Entertainment from the father and son for $360 million in 1994. Then, in a deal worth some $700 million, the Halmis closed a deal to acquire all the ownership interests in Hallmark Entertainment in Jan. 2006.

The sale, announced a day after Crown officially named Henry Schleiff as President/CEO, sees Hallmark's more than 600 TV movies, miniseries and series - many of which the Halmis made - going to RHI. Crown, which will have the right to run select titles from the library on its Hallmark Movie Channel for two years, sold the library's international rights in 2005.

Crown has been looking for a way to make up the more than $1.4 billion in losses domestically and overseas since 2000. Controlling shareholder Hallmark Cards put the company up for sale earlier this year, but failed to find a buyer for the company. Crown expects to be able to close the deal within six to eight weeks.