NICC Looking To Expand Programming Beyond Hallmark

Now that its relationship with Hallmark Channel is winding down, the National Interfaith Cable Coalition is stepping up its effort to produce programming for other outlets and is creating a Web-based network for religious congregations, officials said Thursday.

“We’ve developed a number of strategies that will take us into a future, which we think will allow us to speak to a broader audience,” said Ed Murray, who is president of Faith & Values Media.

The NICC, which does business as Faith & Values, for years has been paid to produce and supply programming for Hallmark Channel, which is owned and operated by Crown Media Holdings.

But that relationship has been winding down, and as part of a settlement announced Thursday the NICC will now only be programming a two-hour block on Hallmark Channel, on Sunday mornings.

Under the NICC’s new three-year pact with the network, it will not get paid for that programming. Rather, Hallmark Channel is giving the NICC the two Sunday hours to program, with the NICC planning to generate revenue by selling ads during its Sunday shows.

“Our experience with Hallmark has been very rewarding,” Murray said. “But fundamentally the [new] agreement is a termination agreement … It gives us certain payments that boil down to release payments.”

The NICC has created five for-profit businesses, under the holding company Lightworks Enterprises, to produce made-for-TV movies, do TV production and create web initiatives.

Right now, the NICC has eight telepics in production, and as well as a co-production with the BBC, according to Murray.

“For us to fulfill our mission, we really need to speak across demographics boundaries, so we are much better off developing programming that has different distribution destinations than Hallmark only,” he said. 

 “Over the last three years we have begun to develop ways and relationships that will allow us to speak to different audiences, broader audiences,” he added.

The NICC is also creating a web-based network of and for American religious congregations, which will offer video, audio and text content, according to Murray.

According to an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday, Crown also said it had settled a pending $15 million NICC claim in the event of a change of control. Crown will pay the NICC a total of $3.75 million in three installments of $1.25 million each on Jan. 20, 2008, Jan. 20, 2009 and Jan. 20, 2010. If there is a change of control, Crown will pay the remaining unpaid installments at that time.