Crown Media's revenue rises by 29 per cent

MUMBAI: Crown Media which operates the Hallmark Channel has reported its operating results for the three months and year ended 31 December 2003.

For the full year the company's total net revenue increased by 29 per cent to $207.5 million from $161.0 million in the prior year. Ad revenues increased by 42 per cent to $98.1 million as compared to $69.1 million in 2002.

Hallmark Channel subscribers increased by 15 per cent to 113.3 million worldwide as of 31 December 2003, from 98.3 million subscribers on 31 December 2002. The channel ended the quarter with 56.0 million subscribers in the US and 57.3 million international subscribers across 122 countries.

The distribution number for Asia has been growing from 20 million subscribers by the end of 2002 to over 25 millions households by the end of 2003. In 2003, Hallmark expanded it's distribution in Hong Kong on two newly launched Pay TV platforms: Now Broadband TV and the Galaxy's ExTV. The company added that in this region, markets which experienced the most rapid growth last year included South East Asia, Hong Kong and Australia.

In the US, Hallmark Channel continued its rating success in the fourth quarter. In November and December, the network offered viewers holiday movies that attracted 12 million new viewers and led to all-time highs in ratings and impressions in all its key demographics in both total day and prime time for the day, the week, the month and the quarter. For the first time, Hallmark ranked among the top 10 out of all 52 add-supported cable networks in total day household ratings in December according to Nielsen Media Research. Building upon this success, Hallmark was again ranked ninth in January with a 0.7 household rating in total day out of all 52 ad-supported cable networks, tied with three other channels a release states.

Internationally the UK continues to be the highlight. Its share of viewing increased by 45 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2003 as compared to the prior year's quarter, according to the Broadcaster Audience Research Board. Hallmark UK is currently ranked sixth in the country among all multi-channel homes.

Crown Media president, CEO David Evans dwelt on how he planned keeping ahead of competition in Asia with the likes of HBO, Star Movies, AXN. He said, " We will continue to strengthen and differentiate our programming content that helps us keep pace with competition and challenges in the market. We will also be more creative for on-air and off-air promotion that revolves around programming content and sponsorship opportunities.

"The growth of subscription revenues is mainly a result of increased distribution in international markets, whereas the growth in advertising revenue is driven by the US market. The growth of library sales also contribute to the overall growth on revenues.

"Looking ahead to this year we see the ability to maintain this positive momentum in all areas. Hallmark US intends to drive its ratings with more original movies and mini-series, combined with the introduction of newly acquired classic series such as Magnum P.I. and Gilligan's Island. We intend to expand our distribution as we work with our cable and satellite partners, and focus on our top 37 US markets in a localised and coordinated effort with the 4,300 Hallmark Gold Crown stores.

"Internationally, we expect additional ratings gains, with the UK channel leading this improvement. We plan to continue to generate revenues from our film library and tightly manage our costs."

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