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Hallmark sets ambitious schedule

Channel to air 35 telepics in '09-'10 season

NEW YORK — Hallmark Channel plans to air a network-record 35 telepics in the 2009-10 season, up from 30 in the current year.

Viewers shouldn’t expect a lot of plot twists, however. And the timeslot will never change: Saturdays at 9 p.m.

“We offer predictability in an unpredictable world,” said chief exec Henry Schleiff during a scaled-down upfront presentation Tuesday. “People want to say, ‘I knew she was going to marry that guy!’ They want the payoff in act three.”

Hallmark also announced a partnership with NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts through which student-made short films picked by a celebrity panel of judges will start airing on the net in October. Tisch alum Alec Baldwin is the first confirmed judge.

Along with its longstanding strategy of making original movies, Hallmark, now in 86 million households with 16 million more getting Hallmark Movie Channel, also airs a range of off-net syndie mainstays. That roster includes “The Golden Girls,” “MASH” and “Little House on the Prairie.” In January, the channel added “I Love Lucy.”

One classic that has quietly left the network fold is enduring 1970s family drama “The Waltons.” The cabler’s license for the Warner Bros.-owned show expires at the end of the month and was not renewed by Hallmark.

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