Crown cuts quarter loss

Reruns add to programming expenses

NEW YORK — Crown Media Holdings, which operates the Hallmark Channel, trimmed its cash-flow loss to $3 million for the first quarter compared with a loss of $10.1 million for the same period in 2003.

Programming expenses for the quarter shot up by 27%, to $29.8 million, due mainly to Hallmark Channel’s adding of reruns of “MASH,” “Matlock” and “Little House on the Prairie” to its schedule, Crown said.

Crown’s quarterly report focused on the 12% jump in the number of subscribers to Hallmark Channel in the U.S., upping its total to 57.6 million.

Also highlighted by Crown was the double-digit growth in the ratings of Hallmark Channel, propelling it to a slot among the top-10 highest-rated basic-cable network in total-day Nielsens for all 13 weeks of the first quarter.

David Evans, president and CEO of Crown Media, said Hallmark Channel’s international networks added 5% more subscribers, to 57.3 million across 122 countries. Crown announced last month that it is looking for a buyer of its international operations.

Crown’s net income for the quarter fell by $41.5 million, compared with a loss of $46.7 million for the same period a year ago.

Net revenues for Crown shot up by 39%, to $58.3 million for the quarter. Crown’s advertising revenues climbed by 34%, to $30 million.