Holidays Come to TV Early

A recent holiday season-themed poll conducted by a local Fox affiliate in York, Pa., revealed that 62% of respondents do not want to hear holiday songs from Mariah Carey, Nat King Cole and The Jackson 5 before Thanksgiving.

Yet it’s clear that some TV viewers are indeed ready to deck the halls prior to cutting the turkey, judging by the record-breaking ratings Hallmark Channel recently generated with its pre-Halloween, holiday-themed movie A Wish for Christmas.

The Oct. 29 movie premiere — the first of 19 new original holiday films in its annual “Countdown to Christmas” lineup — drew a bell-ringing 3.4 million viewers. It’s now the most-watched (and earliest-premiering) debut film for Hallmark’s annual holiday programming stunt since it started in 2009, the network said.

Not to be outdone, Hallmark’s Nov. 5 premiere of The Mistletoe Promise drew 3.9 million viewers, the network’s most watched original film of 2016.

Overall, Hallmark, and sister service Hallmark Movies & Mysteries will air a combined 12 original holiday films before Thanksgiving, not including Christmas in Homestead, which will air at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night (Nov. 24).

The strong performance of Hallmark’s holiday films over the years has emboldened the network to stretch the yuletide season well beyond its traditional limits.

The performance of A Wish for Christmas “was far greater than we ever expected, and it’s a great start to our holiday movies, which our viewers look forward to every year,” Michelle Vicary, Hallmark’s executive vice president of programming, said.

Not too far behind Hallmark in ushering the holiday season early is UP. The network’s “We Get Christmas” lineup of holiday programming launched over the weekend of Nov. 5-6 — including the premiere of its original holiday movie Married by Christmas — drew nearly 5.5 million cumulative viewers, according to the network.

A second Christmas-themed UP original movie, Merry Christmas, Baby!, debuted this past Sunday (Nov. 13).

Other networks are at least waiting until after Thanksgiving to offer up holiday programming fare. Freeform will launch a countdown to its annual “25 Days of Christmas” franchise with Christmas-themed programming beginning on Nov. 28, while TV One will unveil original holiday movie The Christmas Swap on Nov. 26 — one of two original holiday films the network plans to air before Dec. 25.

The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has yet to come and go, yet some cable-network programming lineups are already beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.