Hallmark Channel Returns to U-verse After Nearly Five Years

Hallmark Channel Logo
Courtesy of Hallmark Chanel

One of the media industry’s most prolonged battles over content rights has come to an end — that between Crown Media, owner of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries (once known as Hallmark Movie Channel), and AT&T.

In an era when revenue from video distributors has become more important to TV networks, blackouts often result. The TV outlets want more money for their programming, while the cable, satellite and telecommunications companies that transmit the programming to consumers need to keep down costs. When a network does go dark, its time off the air can last hours, maybe days — sometimes even weeks.

How about five years?

Crown Media’s Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have been off the AT&T service since late August of 2010, after the two sides could not come to terms over how much AT&T ought to pay Hallmark for the programming rights. Now the two have resolved their dispute, ending what may be the longest-lasting example of  such a showdown in recent memory.

“We are respectful of their need to run a business and to try and manage their programming costs,” said Bill Abbott, president and chief executive of Crown Media Networks, in an interview. “We understand that we had a lot of tough asks in terms of additional costs.”

In the media industry, five years can represent an eternity. When Hallmark came off of U-verse, it was readying a big push behind hours of daytime programming featuring content related to Martha Stewart, a gambit that ended up being short-lived. Since that time, Hallmark has placed more emphasis on original programming and restyled its Hallmark Movie Channel to center around mystery movies. “These are two completely different channels than they were in 2010,” Abbott said, nodding to a better defined slate of programming and a spate of “stunts” across the year tied to holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

The two sides have held discussions for years, Abbott said, with Hallmark executives checking in with U-verse counterparts every so often to talk about new programming options and examine opportunities for rapprochement.

Hallmark’s plight in 2010 was emblematic of a struggle that other independent cable operators have faced in recent times. As cable and satellite distributors slowly consolidate, size matters in the ongoing dance between TV outlets and the companies that distribute their content to the world

The Weather Channel, owned by NBCUniversal, Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, was removed from DirecTV for three months ending in 2014, after the satellite distributor demanded changes to its programming lineup. Ovation, the independent arts network, was off Time Warner Cable for 10 months at the start of 2013, when the cable company said it believed the network was in need of more original programming.

Since those skirmishes, distributors have made moves to grow bigger. Charter Communications’ bid to buy Time Warner Cable is in review by government regulators. AT&T’s effort to purchase DirecTV is expected to move forward after it gained approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Without a giant media outlet like TNT or ESPN to anchor themselves to millions of consumers, independent operators could face new challenges in months to come.

 

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  1. Jane Hedrick says:

    Why did Hallmark disappear on uverse????

  2. Shelly says:

    What channel is the Hallmark movies on?

    • Jim says:

      FINALLY!!!!! I’ve grieved for 5 years over the loss of Hallmark on ATT. This is great — and as always, heart-warming.

      J

  3. Dawn says:

    Thank you so much! The efforts on both sides are much appreciated!!!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Just noticed I have the Hallmark channel. ….. thank you! thank you! thank you! Weekends and Holidays haven’t been the same. …. wish it was more about what the people wanted and not about money. Oh well its the way of the world I guess!

  5. Marianne Dahlen says:

    Yesterday my mom was the happiest lady ever…
    She text me to tell me she had The Hallmark channel back!!!!!!!!!!!
    I switched from AT&T a few years back to Direct Tv for the NFL package…
    After the first year or so I was so disappointed at the service I was ready to go back to uVerse but I didnt because my mom would be so sad without her Hallmark. A few months ago I had had enough and switched back to uVerse and boy was my mom upset. Well yesterday when she told me it was back she was so happy, but worried that it was going to go away. I told her I would follow up today on the internet and lo & behold I found this article!!!!!
    All I can say is thank goodness Hallmark is back because I dont know if I would have survived this upcoming holiday season without Hallmark so thank you to whoever!!!!!!!

  6. Not happy with the pending AT&T purchase of Directv. Less competition for one and some companies can just get to large. They then take customers for granted and before you know it, prices go up. Having dealt with AT&T in the past, it hasn’t always been a pleasant feeling. Never had any issue with Directv. After watching AT&T U-verse battle with Hallmark Channel, it’s fearful that it may happen again. Maybe not with Hallmark Channel but other network channels. It’s not a pleasant thought.

    • Dale says:

      DirecTV has nothing to do with this article.

      • Bill says:

        The DirectTV deal has everything to do with this return of Hallmark to Uverse. The article does not mention the AT&T and DirectTV merger being approved but it is the key to this. AT&T was a small player in the video world and Hallmark wouldn’t given them the same rates as the big boys like DirectTV and Comcast. Post merger they had to play nice with the new combined company. Win for the Uverse customers. Let’s hope this continues with other providers.

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