Hallmark Channel Renewed on Comcast

Crown Media Holdings and Comcast agreed to renew their distribution agreement for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel.

Under the new agreement, the cable operator will distribute Hallmark Channel and both the standard-definition and HD formats of Hallmark Movie Channel. The HD-movie channel is expected to launch in March 2008.

"Clearly, this agreement reflects both Comcast's and Hallmark Channel's emphasis on quality, fair price and service to our respective subscribers and viewers,” Crown president and CEO Henry Schleiff said in a statement.

“On a personal note, I would add that our ability to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement should indicate that regardless of size or other factors, parties who operate in good faith can reach fair agreements without outside help or intervention," he added.

Schleiff would not disclose terms of the new deal, but he said it certainly represents a fair increase from what the programmer was previously being paid by Comcast. However, he also said it was “still less then we deserve as the fourth-highest-rated network in the cable industry last week in primetime according to Nielsen [Media Research] ratings.”

Hallmark also has carriage agreements with Time Warner Cable and DirecTV that are up for renewal before the end of the year and, on the company’s earnings call earlier this month, Schleiff said he expected that in at least two of the three cases (including Comcast), agreements would be made before the term date.

Hallmark, which currently has distribution in nearly 85 million homes, is making a push with more original programming and heavier marketing of its family-friendly programming, and that has earned it a consistent in the upper ranks of cable ratings.

The network plans to increase its stable of original movies to 30 over the next year from 12-18 in recent years, and it secured a deal with CBS Wednesday that will allow it to deliver episodes of Cheers, Seventh Heaven and I Love Lucy.