Former Five TV chief lead bidder for Hallmark TV

MUMBAI: It's not just in India that family channel Hallmark is finding the going tough. Hallmark International, the struggling television business of the American greetings card giant is close to being sold off.

And the leader in the race to buy the business is David Elstein, former chief executive of Five, with a $300 million offer that is reportedly backed by venture capitalists 3i (USA) and Providence Equity (UK).

That Elsteim is fronting a British-led consortium ahead of the likes of Viacom, Turner and Sony Pictures International should come as no surprise since it is in the UK that the channel has been doing particularly well.

Hallmark is one of the few channels to have significantly increased its UK TV audience share over the last few years. It is now reportedly at about 1 per cent, up from the 0.1per cent share it had at launch.

Hallmark UK's channel driver is Law and Order which airs at 9 pm and is a show that has garnered tremendous viewer loyalty.

Of course, in all this, what is of particular interest to audiences out here would be the fate of Hallmark India should the sale go through. It has been a long, hard struggle for the channel, despite more than living up to its tag line -- "Where great stories come to life".

Global investment bank UBS is managing the sale of the channel and a final verdict is expected by next week.

Hallmark runs television channels in Europe, Asia and Latin America and also owns a programme library.

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