Hallmark buys back Crown stake

Hallmark Entertainment Inc. has bought back an 8.2 percent stake in its Crown
Media Holdings Inc. subsidiary from EM.TV & Merchandising, a German
programming company that also owns The Jim Henson Co.

The deal frees Crown Media from the shackles of Henson's children's
programming on its Odyssey Network cable network, which will relaunch Aug. 5 as
Hallmark Channel.

'As we get close to rebranding the channel, the Henson programming becomes
less important to the lineup,' Crown chief financial officer Bill Aliber said.
'It's not a children's channel, it's a family channel ... We'll have more
movies, series and miniseries that are targeted to an older audience but appeal
to families.'

The buyout gives EM.TV -- which has suffered from recent management turmoil
and free-falling stock prices -- much-needed cash to pay down debts. Hallmark
now owns a 53 percent stake in Crown and controls 90 percent of the voting