Hallmark adds H.K.

Channel to launch by year's end

HONG KONG — Hallmark Channel, the paybox owned by Crown Media Holdings, has achieved what it describes as a major victory — it has finally cracked the Hong Kong market, and will launch there by the end of the year.

Terence Yau, Hallmark’s Asia-Pacific managing director and CEO, says the company is looking at ways to deliver the channel. The launch could add 600,000 households to Hallmark’s 18 million in the region if it goes with dominant cabler Hong Kong Cable Television.

Hallmark also wants to bring its family-oriented TV dramas and movies to Pakistan. However, timing will depend on the government’s decision on the import of transmission equipment required for broadcast, Yau says. “It’s hard to tell when this will happen.”

Hallmark first hit Asian screens in 1996, when it entered Malaysia. Today it operates in more than a dozen markets in the region. India boasts the biggest audience, with a reach of 9 million households, followed by Taiwan and Korea.

Australia is by far the top earner despite its relatively small audience — only about half a million households, says Barry Frey, the company’s senior VP of advertising.

Frey attributes this to Australia’s largely English-speaking and affluent population, as well as an established advertising market. Oz is such an important market that Hallmark will relaunch the channel there in June with a high-profile marketing campaign.

A bulk of the channel’s operation will be moved from Denver to Sydney, Frey says. The channel produces its own programming Down Under, including hit series “McLeod’s Daughters,” which was one of the highest rated cable shows among female viewers in Singapore.

Hallmark Channel derives more than half of its revenue in Asia-Pacific from subscription fees, says Frey, noting the company expects the revenue to be split evenly between sub fees and advertising in the near future.

In the U.S., the cabler uses the vast retail network of Hallmark Gold Crown stores to promote its programs. The same tactic is slowly being deployed in Asia, where Hallmark also has a retail presence, albeit a smaller one.