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ABC plays the ‘Hallmark’ card

Fully sponsored movies to preem on net

EXCLUSIVE: The storied “Hallmark Hall of Fame” will continue next season under an agreement in which the fully sponsored movies will premiere on ABC, followed a week later by encore telecasts on the Hallmark Channel.

ABC’s deal will begin with the 244th presentation under the Hallmark banner, an adaptation of Mitch Albom’s book “Have a Little Faith,” scripted by Albom, directed by Jon Avnet and starring Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Whitford and Martin Landau. The movie has begun production in Detroit and will air in late November.

Hallmark’s 16-year affiliation with CBS came to an end in the spring (Daily Variety, May 6), when the network balked at committing to three movies a year, traditionally timed to windows prior to Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. The movies — produced by the Kansas City-based greeting card company, which buys the time — will continue to play Sunday nights.

“It was a wonderful relationship with CBS,” said Brad Moore, president of Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods., who called ABC “a very natural home for us.”

Moore said he didn’t anticipate a shift in the tone or style of the movies — which are generally of a heart-warming, female-oriented nature — but added that Hallmark would collaborate with ABC on the content, as it had with CBS.

Hallmark Channel, meanwhile, will repeat each movie four times in a weeklong span, which Moore said will expose the projects to a broader audience. Unlike the broadcast networks — which have almost entirely abandoned the made-for-TV movie biz — the cable channel relies heavily on original movies.

Hallmark bills the 60-year-old “Hall of Fame” as the most-honored program in TV history, with the movies having garnered 80 Emmys and 11 Peabody Awards. Premiering in 1951, Hallmark aired exclusively on NBC until 1979, followed by shorter relationships with CBS, ABC and PBS before landing on the Eye web in the mid-1990s.

Although the franchise remains one of the last recurring longform entities on television, Hallmark has been determined to keep the “Hall of Fame” afloat, with chairman Donald Hall having stated the banner “continues to work its magic on our image.”

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