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Upfronts 2013: Hallmark Channels Tout Investment in Originals

Hallmark Channel renewed freshman daytime series Home & Family, announced two new original primetime series in development, acquired off-network rights to sitcom Home Improvement and said sister network Hallmark Movie Channel is producing its first original holiday movie, all at an upfront luncheon in New York.

Hallmark Channel, premiering its first homegrown original scripted series, Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, this July 20, said the plan is to have four new original scripted dramas on the schedule on Saturday nights by 2014.

"Adding original scripted series to our primetime lineup is the natural next step in Hallmark Channel's evolution and one we feel will pay off in a big way for our viewers, distributors and advertisers," Michelle Vicary, EVP of programming at the two Hallmark channels, said at the upfront.

Officials said the strategy of developing series tied to popular authors and book series minimizes the risk of building new originals because the franchises already have fans. In fact, channels CEO Bill Abbott said the Cedar Cove series, under showrunner Carl Binder, has been pushed back repeatedly to ensure that storylines will meet fans' expectations for the show, about a small-town judge, played by Andie MacDowell, and her love interest, the editor of the local newspaper, played by Dylan Neal. The 74-minute pilot will air on July 20 and 10 one-hour episodes will follow, starting July 27, running through Sept. 28. There also will be a Cedar Cove Christmas movie.

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