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Hallmark In '7th Heaven' After CBS Deal

The Hallmark Channel will bolster its family-friendly line-up in 2008 with the acquisition of the popular series 7th Heaven, Cheers and the classic I Love Lucy.
In addition, the channel extended its carriage agreement for the drama series Matlock, allowing Hallmark to televise the Andy Griffith series through 2011; with a similar extension for Touched By an Angel.
The cable network acquired non-exclusive rights to all 11 seasons of Heaven from CBS Television Distribution. The rights include 243 one-hour episodes which will join the channel's schedule beginning next January. The Cheers rights includes 225 half-hours, with that series scheduled to kick off late in 2008. The Lucy reruns (180 half-hours) will join the schedule early in 2009.

These series will continue to be televised in broadcast syndication, too.

Network officials would not disclose the price of the acquisitions.

Michelle Vicary, senior VP of acquisitions & scheduling/programming for Hallmark Channel, stressed that the acquisitions do not signal that Hallmark will diminish its commitment to the production of original films. On the contrary, to remain competitive, the channel must continue to offer a more robust schedule of original and acquired programming, she said.

The acquisition comes at a perfect time to promote the upcoming additions to the schedule, Vicary said. Hallmark's original holiday films help attract newer, younger "occasional" viewers to the channel, and the channel has an opportunity to lure them back by promoting the upcoming fare, she noted.

The acquisitions will fit well with current fare, including M*A*S*H, Little House on the Prairie, and Murder She Wrote. Hallmark intends to strip the new series, but the channel has also had success doing mini-marathons and "stack nights," Vicary said.