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Former Hallmark Head Bill Abbott Renames Cable Networks To Create Family Friendly GAC Brands

William (Bill) J. Abbott attends the 2017 Summer TCA Tour-Hallmark Channel And Hallmark Movies And Mysteries at a private residence on July 27, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.
Bill Abbott, who when pictured ran the Hallmark Channel, is rebranding the networks recently picked up by his GAC Media. (Image credit: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Bill Abbott, who ran the squeaky-clean Hallmark Channel, is looking to turn cable networks recently acquired by his GAC Media into a new family friendly entertainment destination.

The Great American Country channel, acquired from Discovery for $90 million, is becoming GAC Family, effective Sept. 27. 

GAC Family Bill Abbott

Ride TV, a privately held channel focused on equestrian sports, was also acquired by GAC Media. It will become GAC Living.

The channels were described as the new company's "flagships." The networks have deals in place that put them in about 50 million homes. The company said the networks would be launching across platforms, but didn’t disclose plans for distribution beyond cable. At Hallmark, Abbott launched the streaming subscription service Hallmark Movies Now.

After years of growing ratings and profits at Crown Media Family Networks, the media company owned by Hallmark Cards, Abbott left in January 2020 following a decision to pull a commercial featuring a gay marriage.

In June, GAC Media, formed by Abbott and Dallas-based Hicks Equity Partners LLC, said it had purchased Great American Country and Ride TV and planned to invest in family friendly programming and to look for other growth opportunities.

“At GAC, we’re focused on creating strong brands, compelling programming and a consistent family friendly viewing experience across multiple genres,” said Abbott. “The launch of GAC Family and GAC Living is the next phase in our strategy to bolster the company’s portfolio with networks that deliver on the promise of safe and entertaining storytelling that enriches lives.”

GAC Living GAC Media Bill Abbott

GAC Family’s tagline will be “Stories Well Told.” The channel's programming plan looks like a page from the Hallmark Channel playbook under Abbott. It will continue to run content that captures “American culture, lifestyle and heritage,” GAC Media said. Its schedule will evolve to include family friendly original movies and series that “celebrate relationships and the emotional connections related to holidays, seasons and occasions.

GAC Living will use the tagline “Life Well Lived.” It will be the unscripted companion to GAC Family, the company said. It will have more of a focus on southern and country living.

Specific programming plans will be announced in the future, the company said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting + Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.