Hallmark-DIRECTV Forge New Carriage Agreement

Crown Media Holdings, parent company of the Hallmark Channel and the Hallmark Movie Channel announced yesterday an agreement with DIRECTV.The terms of the deal were not released, but the distribution agreement was described as “multi-year.” The deal will also give Direct TV the right to broadcast the Hallmark Movie Channel in both standard and HD.

Crown Media has now locked up distribution agreements with its three largest carriers, recently inking agreements with cable operators Comcast and Time Warner in the months prior to the DIRECTV agreement.Direct TV currently distributes the Hallmark Channel to 15 million of their 16.8 million subscribers. Crown Media is at somewhat of a disadvantage in that it is not part of any of the major media conglomerations such at Disney/ABC or Viacom. Nevertheless, Crown has methodically worked through the red tape with major distributors in a way several sports networks have been unable to do.

The Hallmark Channel has carved out a niche as a family friendly cable network.Launched in 2001, the network is also known for its production of original movies.The network is currently producing 30 movies for 2008, the most ever for Hallmark.The network consistently rates in the top 10 for Prime Time cable networks, and is seen in 84 million homes nationwide.

The Hallmark Movie Channel is Crown Media’s second cable network.Focused on providing quality entertainment for the family, the channel pulls from the Hallmark Hall of Fame library of movies and mini-series. The HD version of Hallmark Movie Channel is scheduled to launch in the first quarter 2008, and will be a simulcast of the standard-definition (SD) version.Saturday night premiers and major programming events each quarter will headline the movie channel’s programming lineup.An exact launch date has not been established.