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Hallmark Channel Wins Carriage Renewal With Comcast

In a key deal, Crown Media Holdings, owner of Hallmark Channel, has renewed its distribution agreement with Comcast for a multi-year term, officials said Thursday.

Under the new deal, Comcast will have the right to distribute Hallmark Channel and both the standard definition and HDTV versions of Hallmark Movie Channel. The HD version of the movie channel will launch in March.

The announcement came two days after Hallmark Channel’s bid to get help from federal regulators in its negotiations with Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, went aground. On Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin’s attempt to impose new regulations on the cable industry failed. His proposals included rules that could have forced Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as a result of compulsory arbitration, to carry Hallmark Channel and the NFL Networks higher license fees.

In a prior filing, Comcast had told the FCC that Hallmark Channel shouldn’t be allowed to turn to the agency for help just because it has decided to forsake its low-license-fee strategy.

Earlier this month during a third-quarter conference call, Crown Media president and CEO Henry Schleiff said that Hallmark Channel’s carriage deal with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV were all set to expire at the end of the year.

Schleiff said that Hallmark Channel was close to completing contract renewals with two of those distributors, but he didn’t say which two.

As to the Comcast renewal, in a prepared statement Schleiff said, "Clearly, this agreement reflects both Comcast's and Hallmark Channel's emphasis on quality, fair price and service to our respective subscribers and viewers. 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."

Comcast also issued a statement about the Hallmark Channel renewal.

"Hallmark Channel is a highly-rated network with original movies and classic series all delivered at a fair and reasonable price,” said Madison Bond, Comcast’s executive vice president of content acquisition. “Our goal is to serve the best interests of our subscribers and there are few networks that offer them better programming or value than Hallmark Channel."