At the Television Critics Association virtual summer press tour this month, the Hallmark Channel made a big announcement. Crown Media, the parent company of the Hallmark Channel, is now known as Hallmark Media. "This evolution in our own brand's identity is just a no-brainer. It allows us to better align with Hallmark, it makes sense, and resonates with our viewers and business partners. And of course we are now, in name, what we are at our core," said Hallmark Media President & CEO Wonya Lucas. Along those lines, Lucas, together with Executive Vice President, Programming, Lisa Hamilton Daly, also shared with TV critics the network's vision and future plans for programming at the Hallmark Channel.
With a legacy of more than 110 years, Hallmark is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The two executives remarked how the Hallmark team has built a brand over the years that people have come to associate with kindness, positivity, celebrations, holidays, and the big and small moments that give meaning to people's lives. "Our brand is centered around love of every kind and love for all. And, over the last two+ decades, we have established a programming niche that brings to life the Hallmark brand," said Lucas. "The common denominator of our content is love in all its many forms. We believe that all humans deserve and are indeed worthy of love and seeing themselves in loving relationships through our storytelling."
The network shared steps they are taking to lean in more to the brand for the Hallmark Channel. One of those efforts includes the launch of Mahogany, a programming initiative and the brainchild of Lucas that takes the spirit of the iconic 34-year-old Mahogany greetings card brand and translates it to the screen with authentic stories about friendship, family, community, and love through the perspectives of Black women. The first Mahogany movie, "Unthinkably Good Things," premieres on August 28. Another Mahogany movie is expected to premiere closer to the holidays, with more to come in 2023.
In addition to Mahogany programming, the network is exploring projects with other Hallmark Cards brands and their sister company, Crayola, and with DaySpring, their faith-based brand.
Behind the camera, Lucas shared that they are also upping their efforts to provide more opportunities for female creators, producers, writers, and directors. In the new year, Hallmark will launch "Hallmark's Make Her Mark," a reciprocal director-mentorship initiative to allow more women to learn and practice the craft of TV filmmaking.
As for the programming direction, Lucas explained that the feedback they heard from their viewers is they want to see expansion. "So one of the things we've been focusing on is what I call opening the aperture of the brand and allowing more place and space for us to tell more stories," she said.
Daly elaborated that on the creative level, they're giving people a lot more freedom. "We're giving writers more freedom to dream up different stories. We're giving directors more freedom to shoot things that look a little different and are more artful in some ways. I think that we're just trying to push our boundaries in every way we can to give our viewers fresh, lovely, new experiences wherever we can."
But while the Hallmark Channel's programming has definitely evolved in its storytelling, shared Lucas, it still remains on-brand at all times. There are no plans to change the G-rated, family-friendly nature of the content—whether it's a romantic comedy, a mystery, drama, or the iconic "Countdown to Christmas" movies and specials. Lucas explained that her team takes the time to truly understand the Hallmark Channel's audience, and the Hallmark brand, before going into the creative process: "Taking that time up front in the collaboration is not the most difficult part of it but I would say it's the most time-consuming and the most important."