After losing several familiar faces to its former head, Crown Media Family Networks said it signed actress Lacey Chabert to an exclusive overall deal to star in, develop and produce content for the Hallmark channels over the next two years.
Chabert has proved to be a fan favorite for Crown Media, starring in many movies on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Most recently, she developed, executive produced, and starred in the Wedding Veil trilogy, a new movie series for Hallmark Channel.
“Lacey’s warmth, talent, relatability, and creative sensibilities have endeared her to millions of Hallmark viewers for more than ten years, making her one of our most in-demand stars,” remarked Lisa Hamilton Daly, executive VP, programming at Crown Media Family Networks. “In addition to shining on screen, Lacey is a prolific behind-the-scenes creative partner, developing and executive producing many of our highest-quality, most-beloved projects. She inherently understands and embodies what our networks are all about – the transformational power of love and making people feel good – and we look forward to continuing our work with her to create heartfelt, compelling stories that will entertain, inspire, and touch our audience.”
Signing Chabert appears to be at least partly a response to competition from Bill Abbott, who after running the Hallmark Channel for years, in 2021 formed GAC Media as a family-friendly rival to Hallmark Channel, complete with a calendar full of holiday movies starring faces familiar to Hallmark viewers.
“My experience at Hallmark, a home to me for over ten years now, has been wonderful and it’s beyond rewarding to create characters and develop stories that resonate so strongly with viewers,” Chabert said. “I’m also incredibly grateful to Crown’s programming team for supporting me as a producer and empowering me to develop and star in projects that bring my passion and creative vision to life. I am so excited for what’s next and to continue connecting with Hallmark’s audience.”
Abbott in October signed an exclusive four-picture deal with Danica McKellar to appear and executive produce original films for cable network GAC Family and its sister channel GAC Living. Her first GAC film, The Winter Place had its premiere in January. For Hallmark, McKellar starred in made for TV movies including You, Me and the Christmas Tree.
Trevor Donovan, who starred in a dozen Hallmark movies, also signed with GAC in October. He appeared in GAC’s Jingle Bell Christmas in December.
In January, Jen Lilley, who did a number of holiday movies for Hallmark, signed a deal to do four GAC films.
GAC Family kicked off its first holiday season with Welcome to Great American Christmas, headlined by Cameron Mathison and Debbie Matenopoulos, who had been the hosts of Home & Family, the daily daytime show that was canceled by Hallmark.
GAC also grabbed season two of When Hope Calls. Season one of the series appeared on Hallmark Channel. GAC also announced that Hallmark Channel favorite Lori Loughlin — now notorious because of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal — would be a guest star on the series, playing her character from Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart.
Other Hallmark stars appearing in GAC films include Nick Bateman, Rukiya Bernard, Cindy Busby, Sara Canning, Dillon Casey, Torrance Coombs, Trevor Donovan, Brendan Fehr, Jennie Garth, Maggie Lawson, Jen Lilley, Sarah Lind, Daniel Lissing, Jessica Lowndes, Matthew MacCaull, Chad Michael Murray, Sam Page, Merritt Patterson, Christopher Russell, Becca Tobin, Jill Wagner and Dewshane Williams.
Several key Crown Media executives have also jumped to Abbott’s team at GAC. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.