For the last eight years, those who weren’t watching football on Super Bowl Sunday had the heartwarming option of instead seeing kittens roll around on turf for three hours. That tradition, Hallmark’s annual Kitten Bowl, will not continue this year, and GAC Media is looking into acquiring the program, Variety has learned exclusively.
“While we are not currently developing original animal-centric programming, Hallmark Channel is pleased to support partners like North Shore Animal League America as part of our commitment to social responsibility initiatives,” a rep for the network shared via Facebook on Saturday, Feb. 5, when a fan inquired about the event previously coined as “the nation’s most beloved rescue pet adoption event of the year.”
Shortly after the remark, former president and CEO of Hallmark parent company Crown Media Bill Abbott shared his disappointment on Twitter. “Kitten Bowl was a passion project that everyone involved will always be deeply proud to have been a part of. Grateful we were able to find fur-ever homes for so many,” he wrote on Sunday, Feb. 6. “Please continue to support Animal League in their mission to find all these animals loving homes. #GetYourRescueOn and #adopt a furry friend!”
Abbott exited Crown Media in 2020 after 11 years and went on to acquire GAC, formerly Great American Country. The company was split into two brands, GAC Family and GAC Living, and launched in September 2021.
The Kitten Bowl was an important part of Abbott’s tenure at the network, as he worked closely with host and advocate Beth Stern on the annual event. Additionally, animal shelters all over the country held adoption events over Super Bowl weekend in collaboration with the TV special, leading to more than 75,000 pets find homes.
“Hallmark Channel made the decision not to move forward with Kitten Bowl this year and, while we miss working on this lifesaving program with them, we are grateful for their recent donation of $25,000 for #BettyWhiteChallenge and hopeful that Kitten Bowl will return in the future,” Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at North Shore Animal League America said in a statement.
“The shelters are really upset,” one insider tells Variety, as another adds that Abbott is now brainstorming if it’s possible to bring the Kitten Bowl to GAC.
“Hallmark is going in a different direction, so it certainly opens up the opportunity for,” the source notes, adding that GAC has already set a meeting for this week about how it could host the Kitten Bowl in 2023 and are “excited about the potential opportunity.”
Since GAC’s launch, many Hallmark Channel mainstays have made a move over to GAC, with Trevor Donovan and Danica McKellar signing overall deals and Lori Loughlin making her TV return on season 2 of “When Hope Calls” on GAC Family in December.