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Holidays Mean Green For ABC Family, Hallmark

It's the most wonderful time of the year to sell advertising, particularly if you work at either ABC Family or Hallmark Channel.

Both networks’ years are heavily weighted toward the fourth quarter, when holiday programming stunts attract viewers, and advertisers follow to capitalize on the gift-giving season.

Even in a year in which ratings have been challenged and television budgets reduced, ad spending on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas continues to grow, according to Mark Rejtig, senior VP national-sales at ABC Family, which will retain its holiday cheer after it changes its named to Freeform next year.

“It’s a powerhouse,” says Rejtig. Last year in December, ABC Family was No. 1 in adults 18-49, women 18-49, and surprisingly No. 2 in men 18-49 behind ESPN. “Everyone comes to the set.”

About 25 sponsors have signed up for the 25 Days. Not surprising, holiday season fare is also popular with retailers. This year, the e-commerce category has been a big spender.

Other categories have stepped up as well, including telecos, electronics and packaged goods. For ConAgra’s Reddi-wip whipped cream, ABC Family is rolling out a fleet of cobranded food trucks that will give out goodies in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The stops will be videotaped and used for interstitials during broadcasts.

One of the 25 Nights will feature Reddi-wip and the food trucks multiple times. The video will also be cut into smaller bits and aired during other dayparts on the channel, giving the brand continued exposure. In addition, the video will get pushed out via ABC Family’s social media platform, reaching the network’s most passionate fans.

“Connecting with consumers in the coveted holiday season is key for Reddi-wip,” said Kate Briganti, director of content creation at ConAgra Foods. “We know 25 Days of Christmas will deliver strong ratings and their Pop Up Santa campaign aligned well with Reddi Wip’s mission to Share the Joy this season.” With Pop Up Santa, the network works with sponsors presenting gifts to fans.

Briganti said that when ConAgra integrates brands into programing, recall lifts can be 56% higher than with traditional spots.

ABC Family has even sold a custom sponsorship during December for a show that won’t air till January. An advertiser wants its message attached to promotions for Shadowhunters, which is based on the Mortal Instruments books, giving it a built-in fan base among young adults that the studios want to reach.

The fourth quarter is also huge for Crown Media, owner of the Hallmark channels, where office decorations went up last month and whose Countdown to Christmas this year starts before Thanksgiving, giving gift-wrapping opportunities for retailers looking to reach Black Friday shoppers.

Last year, Hallmark’s fourth-quarter ad sales were $111.1 million, up 14% from 2013 and 55% more than third quarter. Crown’s 2Q 2015 ad revenue was up 18% to $89.4 million and Ed Georger, executive VP of ad sales, says growth will be similar in the third.

On Oct. 30, Hallmark shifted into holiday mode, with no paid programming, no infomercials, nothing but the holiday spirit.

“Holiday creative looks so good on our network, from the polar bears to toys to import autos with big red bows,” Georger says.

Original Movies

Hallmark will be running 18 original movies during the holiday season. The first, Tis the Season for Love, slated for Nov. 1, will be sponsored by Lionsgate’s film Love the Coopers and Ikea.

Hallmark will have a Heartwarming Holiday Countdown float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy’s and other retailers will be sponsors of Hallmark Christmas programming. Other strong categories this year include movies and packaged goods.

Hallmark Channel will run new original movies on five consecutive nights of Thanksgiving week. Automaker Audi included Hallmark in its Thanksgiving strategy and bought a premium position in the Thanksgiving Day movie 12 Gifts of Christmas.

The J.M Smucker Co. has become a major sponsor and has its brand integrated into multiple original movies including A Christmas Melody, which stars Mariah Carey and airs Dec. 19. In one scene a character “hugs” a mug of Folgers coffee.

Smucker’s holiday package also includes sponsorship of Hallmark’s Joy to the World national consumer sweepstakes, as well as a digital component.

On Christmas Day, Hallmark Channel will run all 18 movies commercial-free. “There are sponsorship opportunities, but it’s another unique give-back to our audience and a unique opportunity for holiday advertisers to give back.”