Hallmark claims higher TV penetration in Asia Pacific

MUMBAI: When English movie channel Hallmark launched in Asia, not many industry watchers were confident that it would last out the long haul. The Asian viewer had enough of local fare to watch, apart from the mega blockbuster Hollywood movies on leading movie channels Star Movies and HBO. The viewer would not really get swayed by the 'made for television' movies on Hallmark, went the view.

But a global relaunch last year, better programme packaging, better on-air branding has seen Hallmark gradually making a mark. The Crown Media-owned channel has become an option that viewers are increasingly beginning to snack on.

In a press release, Hallmark claims that the relaunch has also worked in increasing its penetration by 50 per cent in the Asia Pacific region. The channel claims to be available in 18 million homes, up from 12 million last year.

Crown Media International managing director & chief executive (Asia) Terence Yau says this figure includes viewers from "India to Japan, and from China to Australia and New Zealand -- who are currently able to watch the service on seven different feeds and branded blocks."

Yau adds that during the course of the year, the channel worked hard at transforming its scope and feel. It identified viewer segments like children and the mature adult and went after them with innovative programming blocks. All this meant that the whole family could stay glued to the channel during primetime.

Besides subscribers, the Channel is working hard at building on its advertising database through a strong combo of on-air and on-ground packages. To this end, it has taken advantage of its Hallmark Cards chain of retail stores. This is something other C&S channels find hard to match.

40 per cent of the channel's product is exclusive and the programming is an interesting mix of family flicks and mini series. People looking to add spice to their lives tuned into the imaginative science fiction themed series Sliders. The dramatic series Touched by an Angel and Brooklyn South kept the thinking viewer engrossed, while kids had their share of Sesame Street, Clifford, and Calliou.

Hallmark recently bought the seventh season of Touched by an Angel from CBS, a total of 27 new episodes. The channel has also held promotional events in a bid to imprint its unique identity on the viewers' psyche. In February, Bai Ling and Russell Wong who starred in The Monkey King visited Asia for the film's premiere. Hallmark also connected with the crucial women's segment in May by keeping aside a week where films appealing to women were shown. The channel claims that this had an impact in India, Singapore, Philippines and Malalysia.

Hallmark is also forging stronger relationships with cable operators. It invited some of them to South Australia to see how the mini-series McLeod's Daughters was being made. The series is expected to debut on the channel in March 2002.

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