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Hallmark eyes lifestyle nets

Channel circles around Martha Stewart shows

Hallmark is aiming to get into the lifestyle network game.

The org’s flagship net, the Hallmark Channel, is reestablishing its brand around the previously announced acquisition of syndie hit “Martha Stewart Living” and a large library of Martha Stewart Omnimedia titles including spinoffs “Everyday Food,” “Whatever, Martha!” and Emeril Lagasse’s line of food programs. Net will also produce originals of “The Martha Stewart Show.”

Net reps also hinted at a program in the works with “a very legendary country-western star. Female. Well-endowed.” The name Dolly Parton was not explicitly mentioned.

Net prexy and CEO William Abbott said Hallmark’s new initiatives would help it act as counterprogramming to the rest of cable. “Some of our competitors have closed out the market for daytime television,” Abbott said. “We’re going in the opposite direction. We think there’s definitely a market if the show is strong enough.”

With “Living,” “Show” and other Martha Stewart Omnimedia spinoffs under its belt, Abbott said the net hadn’t ruled out the possibility of snapping up the other Martha Stewart show on the market — “Help Me, Martha!,” a new skein from producer Mark Burnett. Asked point-blank if the net was looking to acquire the show, Abbott said, “We’re open for business, as you can see.”

As to the famously fastidious Stewart’s role in the future of the Hallmark Channel, Abbott said that the lifestyle guru is “a very big part of the equation.”

“We don’t want the Hallmark Channel to become the Martha Stewart Channel necessarily,” Abbott said,” “But you could do a lot worse.”

The channel’s original telepics are starting to migrate to Hallmark Movie Channel, which will air two originals this year and four next year, with the possibility that the Hallmark mothership will phase out its originals in the process.

Abbott emphasized that they are bullish on the potential for Hallmark Movie Channel to become a ratings player on its own starting next week when Nielsen begins measuring its viewership — which is always a milestone in the growth curve of a cabler.

Barbara Fisher, Hallmark’s senior veep of programming, reiterated Abbott’s assessment of the Hallmark milieu as an place upbeat and uplifting fare.

“There’s a genre here that people aren’t getting elsewhere,” Fisher said. “‘Breaking Bad’ is a great show but it’s not for us. There’s a lot of dark stuff out there and I see us as a beacon of light.”

To that end, Hallmark has acquired the rights to adapt books by popular evangelical Christian author Janette Oke.

Fisher said that Hallmark’s development slate included an animated holiday pic starring the company’s cartoon comedy twosome Hoops and Yoyo.

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