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Hallmark, Dish Renew Carriage Deal

Hallmark Channel reached a carriage-deal renewal with EchoStar Communications that will boost distribution for the network and its all-movie spinoff.

Crown Media Holdings, owner and operator of Hallmark Channel, entered into a multiyear agreement with EchoStar’s Dish Network direct-broadcast satellite service that provides for continued distribution for the core channel and Hallmark Movie Network.

Also under the new pact, Hallmark Channel will be repositioned to Dish's AT200 package beginning in April, bringing the network’s overall distribution from its current 76.2 million subscribers to more than 80 million. Hallmark Movie will be carried on Dish's AT250 package, increasing its total distribution to more than 5 million subscribers.

The EchoStar agreement represents the second carriage renewal for Hallmark announced so far this year. In February, the network closed a renewal with Mediacom Communications.

The programmer has affiliation agreements expiring with some of its major distributors on or before the end of this year.

“We are delighted to renew our affiliation agreement for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel with EchoStar on such mutually agreeable terms," Crown CEO Henry Schleiff said in a prepared statement. "We are particularly appreciative that we could extend and significantly grow this partnership."

Crown Thursday reported 2006 revenue of $201.2 million, a 2% gain from $197.4 million for the prior year. Subscriber-fee revenue increased 33% to $24.9 million from $18.7 million the prior year. Ad revenue increased 19% to $174.2 million from $146.1 million in 2005.