Hallmark Channels Launch Production Arm to Fund TV Movies, Series (EXCLUSIVE)

The parent company of Hallmark Channel is stepping up its investment in original content with the launch of Crown Media Productions.

The new unit is designed to allow the Hallmark and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channels to own more of their programming outright and to control it across multiple platforms worldwide. Crown Media Prods. aims to bankroll the production of up to six telepics this year, with the goal of doubling that number by 2016.

The production arm will be overseen by Michelle Vicary (pictured), exec VP of programming for both cablers, which are units of Crown Media Family Networks.

The creation of a Los Angeles-based production operation marks “the next stage of the company’s evolution,” Vicary said.

“A production arm creates the infrastructure that makes it possible for us to keep up with an ever-growing demand for more and more original Hallmark-branded programming across a variety of platforms, and it benefits Crown Media with more direct input into the creative process and financing, rights retention, and growing one of the best family film libraries in entertainment,” she said.

The move comes as Hallmark is expanding its original programming focus to include original series as well as its trademark heart-tugging telepics. Hallmark Channel’s slate of original skeins at present include the Andie MacDowell starrer “Cedar Cove” and “Good Witch,” toplined by Catherine Bell and James Denton.

Crown Media’s decision to fund its own productions makes sense at a time when off-network content licensing becoming a bigger part of the revenue picture for most established cablers.

Vicary said she intends to make the rounds of Hollywood’s talent agencies in the coming weeks to explain Crown Media’s focus and shop for talent and material.

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