EXCLUSIVE: Crown Media Family Networks’ SVP Barbara Fisher, who has overseen original programming for the company’s Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel since June 2007, will leave her post in a couple of weeks. For the past five years, Fisher shepherded the development and production of all original scripted programming for both networks –- movies, miniseries, specials — reporting to Michelle Vicary, EVP Programming. A rep for Crown Media confirmed Fisher’s exit, adding, “We have an incredible amount of respect for Barbara; she is multi-talented, and we hope to collaborate with her somehow down the road.” While the flagship Hallmark Channel was down slightly in the ratings year-to-year — finishing 2011 with 814,000 viewers in primetime, down 5% from 2010 following double-digit declines in 2010 and 2009 — its offshoot Hallmark Movie Channel has been g’rowing albeit from a small base. Last year, it averaged 197,000 viewers in primetime, up 45% from 2010. Additionally, Hallmark Channel had a strong finish to 2011, delivering its highest-rated weekend (11/26-27) and single day (11/27) in history. Fisher’s exit comes two weeks after Hallmark Channel’s upfront presentation where the network, which had built its brand on original movies, announced its foray into scripted original series with the green light to movies/backdoor pilots Cedar Cove and When Calls The Heart. Before joining Hallmark, Fisher consulted for National Geographic entertainment as a producer and served as EVP of entertainment at Lifetime entertainment services and president of Universal Studios network programming.
UPDATE, 2:00 PM: The companies finally got their story straight. Turns out Dish won’t stream the Hallmark Movie Channel or any content from it as part of the deal making it part of Blockbuster @ Home. Although Dish promotes the product as an extra cost online and DVD rental service for subscribers, it also serves as a conventional premium tier for some channels that are just offered via satellite. Hallmark Movie Channel will appear on that line-up only.
PREVIOUS, 9:04 AM: The streaming deal with Hallmark Movie Channel was tucked in to multiple releases today pitching Dish’s new Heartland Package, a collection of family-friendly channels that the company’s satellite subscribers can receive for an additional $5 a month. The collection includes Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movie Channel, GMC TV, PixL, and RFD-TV. Later this week the company will add RURAL TV. Here’s the announcement about the agreement with Hallmark owner Crown Media:
Crown Media Family Networks and DISH Network L.L.C. today announced a multi-year renewal of their affiliation agreement. As part of the new agreement, DISH will feature Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel in its newly launched Heartland TV package. DISH will also add Hallmark Movie Channel to DISH’s “Blockbuster @Home” subscription movie package.
Crown Media Family Networks (CMFN), a division of parent company Crown Media Holdings Inc. and home of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, has named Alexandra Smith and Ayn Prince as directors of programming for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, respectively. Smith and Prince are both located in Studio City, CA and will report into Darren Melameth, vice president of programming, planning and scheduling.