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Hallmark Channel Settles Dispute With NICC

Crown Media Holdings, which owns and operates Hallmark Channel, has settled its dispute with the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, which has agreed not to exercise its put option for more than 4 million shares of Crown stock valued at roughly $29 million, officials said Thursday.

The settlement between Crown and the NICC, one of Hallmark’s investors and programming partners, relates to an expired program production and broadcast deal and outstanding claims regarding the NICC’s equity interest in Crown Media.

NICC held a put option to compel Crown Media to purchase its 4.3 million shares of Crown Media common stock, but under the settlement has agreed to relinquish this right as well as its seat on programmer’s board. Crown Medial will file an 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission later Thursday describing the settlement in more detail.

Under the settlement, Hallmark Channel will continue to broadcast a Sunday morning block of Faith & Values programming provided by the NICC, but that block will shrink to two hours from its current six hours. 

In addition, as of Jan. 1, this past Monday. Hallmark Channel regained control of five hours of daily programming each week formerly occupied by the Faith & Values program New Morning 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. 

In late October, the NICC informed Crown Media that it planned to exercise its put option, which was due to expire Nov. 1. 

But Crown Media contended that put option was kaput. Back in November during a third-quarter conference call, Crown Media officials said they had reached a deal with the NICC for a new programming agreement, as the old one was set to expire at the end of the year, and that one of the terms of that new deal was that the NICC wouldn’t exercise its put option.