"We Personal Christmas": How The Hallmark Channel Discovered Large Success With the Vacation Spirit

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It is starting to look quite a bit like Christmas—on The Hallmark Channel, anyway.

The community kicks off “Countdown to Christmas,” its annual round the clock vacation programming occasion, tonight with the premiere of Marry Me at Christmas, the primary of 21 new unique films set to debut throughout 2017’s festive line-up. In relation to vacation programming, Hallmark provides and receives, because it supplies its tradition-loving viewers an infinite provide of Christmas cheer to take pleasure in from Halloween by means of New Yr’s Eve, whereas constantly breaking their very own scores data within the course of. Leaning into their seasonal programming made Hallmark Channel the highest-rated cable community amongst girls ages 25 to 54 (aka the demo each advertiser desires to see beneath their tree) within the fourth quarter of 2016.

The Hallmark Channel’s objective with “Countdown to Christmas,” which launched in 2011 after airing their first unique vacation film in 2000, was “making a vacation spot and understanding this urge for food” for seasonal fare, Invoice Abbott, CEO of Hallmark Channel, mentioned, noting the channel acts as a “protected area, a feel-good area” in a market that has gone “previous the purpose of edgy.”

Michelle Vicary, the manager vp of programming, merely mentioned, “We personal Christmas and we’re going to do it in a much bigger means and a greater means and actually communicate to the spirit of the season that I do not assume any of our rivals do.”

And personal it they appear to. The 2016 “Countdown to Christmas” line-up reached 70.2 million viewers, based on Hallmark, which is a 22 % improve from 2015, a then record-breaking 12 months. And for those who think about Hallmark Films & Mysteries’ “The Most Great Films of Christmas,” you are taking a look at 110 million whole viewers between the 2 channels. 

Cue much more (usually pretend) snow, a seemingly infinite provide of twinkle lights and good old style love tales, the place holding palms is an OMG second and usually do not kiss till the ultimate scene of a two-hour film.

Talking to the enchantment of their films’ chaste method to romance (with no hints at intercourse other than the occasional child-with-one-parent trope), Abbott credited viewers’ want for “innocence…individuals are eager for that in plenty of methods.”

The old style love tales about star-crossed pairs they swoon over and the small city traditions placed on by the communities of their films depict “a habits that resonates in a time the place leisure and actuality is quite a bit harsher,” Abbott continued. 

“It is all I watch nearly,” Becky Homosexual, a stay-at-mom grandmother from Athens, Georgia, mentioned of her dedication to the Hallmark Channel. “It is clear and I simply do not take pleasure in cussing…bare films.”

For Vicary, she highlights a number of elements to clarify Hallmark’s success in the course of the holidays, beginning with the model itself. Based in 1910, the American model has been “a celebration vacation spot” for over 100 years, specializing in “emotional connections.” Combine that with the anticipation forward of the vacation season and you’ve got a easy however potent recipe for fulfillment.

Whereas The Strolling Useless and Sport of Thrones are killing characters quicker than you possibly can say “Bah humbug,” and the kids on Riverdale are steaming up automotive home windows with taboo intercourse scenes, the most important trigger for concern on Hallmark is usually whether or not or not the Christmas parade will go off with out a hitch. What the films can typically lack in stakes they make up for in sentiment. 

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“It is a habits that resonates in a time the place leisure and actuality is quite a bit harsher,” Abbott mentioned. Who would not need to retreat to the idyllic escape offered by Hallmark for 2 hours?

“I watch the vacation films year-round. After I activate the Hallmark Channel and watch their films I do know I can escape the remainder of the world,” Kris Bruns, 50, a retail gross sales affiliate, a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, and a Younger Residing Important Oils distributor from Minnesota, mentioned. “There are not any politics, there isn’t a crime, no hate, no battle.”

Leslie, who’s 45 and lives in Wisconsin, additionally highlighted the family-friendliness of the channel’s choices. “Different channels reminiscent of Showtime, Starz and lots of extra don’t produce the Christmas films, they run the films that had been beforehand within the theaters and…exhibits which can be too mature.”

Ann, a retired senior from North Carolina who has been watching the Christmas films since they started airing, echoed her fellow viewer’s sentiment. “There is no such thing as a profanity nor any intercourse offensive acts in any film I’ve ever seen,” she mentioned. “It’s totally different from all different networks; there isn’t a violence, no profanity, and no wanted sexual habits except for a few sitcoms which aren’t Hallmark productions and are on late night time.”

Nevertheless it’s not simply in regards to the family-friendly films they make, as Abbott confused the significance of spending their licensing price range correctly, paying extra to make use of music and graphics to raise the general expertise. Think about it the bow that’s the good crowning glory on an already impressively wrapped current.

“It is Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is a “key” annual favourite that makes its debut every November as a result of it “builds the anticipation” throughout interstitials. Extra just lately, the community additionally has a relationship with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a “considerate” addition, and, in fact, there’s Mariah Carey‘s “All I Need For Christmas,” which Abbott mentioned they “make the most of for lots of what we do.”

Merely put, Hallmark is creating the coziest environment to entice viewers, the place even the interstitials trigger a case of the nice and cozy and fuzzies and might persuade a viewer to carry off fast-forwarding by means of a industrial break.

“Internally, it was a pure for us to create this spirit of the vacation season in each graphic and each therapy and each promo and each interstitial and each film and the traditions of the season,” mentioned Vicary. “It truly is about creating a whole expertise. When [viewers] come to Hallmark, it isn’t simply coming to look at a present, but it surely’s coming for an expertise.

“It simply provides that extra emotional connection that claims, ‘I hear you and I understand how you feel and I would like you to spend time with us as a community,'” she continued.

And it’s working, as Bruns, who owns about 60 of the Hallmark Christmas films on DVD, mentioned, “One of many issues I really like most in regards to the Hallmark films are that they at all times depart you wanting extra.”

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Whereas most networks ship one or two unique holiday-themed occasions (This December, Fox is placing on A Christmas Story Reside!, whereas NBC has teamed with Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson for previous vacation specials, to spotlight a number of), Hallmark owns the season. 

“Countdown to Christmas” started in 2011, the community actually began leaning into the Christmas spirit in 2013, when it aired 12 unique films, one on Saturday and one on Sunday for six weeks. In 2016, 21 unique films aired, and in 2017, 33 originals will air between Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Films & Mysteries Channel.

For Abbott, it is all about “making a vacation spot and understanding this urge for food at Christmas,” with Vicary explaining the expanded line-up being because of the “viewers is asking for it,” noting the 2016 “Countdown to Christmas”‘ scores went past their projected expectations, as did the advert gross sales income.

However Christmas is not the one seasonal programming the community is experiencing enormous success with its “Fall Harvest” programming occasion, which wrapped its 2017 run final weekend. The very best rated providing, All Of My Coronary heart: Inn Love, starring Lacey Chabert, reached three.9 million unduplicated viewers.

Three years in the past, the push for extra year-round seasonal programming started, with “Fall Harvest” actually taking off. Whereas the community at all times centered programming round Valentine’s Day and Mom’s Day, Abbott mentioned they needed to recreate “the retail expertise at Hallmark,” the place strolling into the shop at fall was a special expertise than at spring or summer time.

“Rankings are by means of the roof,” Abbott mentioned of the community’s current six-week fall programming run, explaining it is “a lot simpler to seize” the essence of fall versus its sunnier siblings. Along with the robust scores, the official web site’s digital views have tripled this fall, due to the imagery of the season and the sense of emotions, based on Abbott.

“Fall has an outlined time frame for everyone” versus spring, the place the climate might be unpredictable, or summer time, a time when folks’s actions and day off varies, Abbott theorized.

Hallmark is difficult its group to create year-long programming to entice its viewers to maintain the TV on Hallmark as they tear the calendar pages, a welcome reliability in an unsure time, each socially and on tv. Vicary mentioned they “lean” into offering an escape as a result of viewers “thank” them for it.

“We’re doing all of it year-long, and we did it actually consciously as a result of I feel it is actually onerous to really feel such as you’re being associated to or somebody cares about what you assume or somebody cares about what you assume,” Vicary mentioned. “The Hallmark model is all about that.”

So all they need for Christmas is you…each season of the 12 months.

“Countdown to Christmas” begins Saturday, Oct. 28 with Marry Me at Christmas, airing at eight p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel. 

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