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Hallmark Channel is well-known for its Countdown to Christmas and original family-friendly movies, but in October 2012, it debuted its first original series, a morning talk show called Home and Family, which was originally broadcast on The Family Channel. The series proved successful, with many Hallmark movie stars joining the hosts each morning to talk about their upcoming projects and to interact with excited audiences.
Fast forward to 2018, and Hallmark has an additional four original series on the air (When Calls the Heart, Meet the Peetes, The Good Witch, and Chesapeake Shores). One of its most popular, When Calls the Heart, a historical drama set in Canada during the early 1900s, is now in its fifth season and, according to its ratings, shows no signs of slowing down.
Both The Good Witch and Chesapeake Shores were renewed for additional seasons which will air in 2018, and in the age of cable cutters, where most people are getting their entertainment through live-streaming, one has to wonder why Hallmark's popularity continues to grow.
Though Hallmark movies can be formulaic and simple, they are also free of profanity, sexual situations, and heavy drama. They are movies you can watch with anyone from age two to ninety-two. And the series follow the same format, although they do inject more drama and a little more romance than found on a two-hour movie.
Preview for 'When Calls the Heart'—Season 5, Episode 4
When someone thinks of family-friendly television, shows like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons come to mind, and once upon a time, those were the only type of shows on television. Think back to I Love Lucy, Bonanza, Dragnet, and Marcus Welby, M.D. They were shows that entertained and allowed grandparents to watch with grandchildren. And some people miss that type of television and now turn to Hallmark.
Hallmark's series bring something different to the table, often teaching a lesson as you watch. It might not be for everyone, but certainly enough viewers are tuning in to make a difference. In November 2017, Hallmark had its biggest week in network history with its Christmas movies, and in December 2017, When Calls the Heart's Christmas movie pulled in over 3.6 million viewers which isn't bad for a network competing with Netflix and Hulu.
Each Sunday a new episode of When Calls the Heart airs, the show (or the #Hearties as fans call themselves) trend on Twitter, and there are currently three extremely active Facebook groups. Both Chesapeake Shores and The Good Witch have active fanbases as well.
Bill Abbott, chief executive of Crown Media, which owns Hallmark Channel, explains that Hallmark is a place where you can go and feel good, saying Hallmark intentionally branded itself as "the happy place."
There's a reason why the channel refers to itself as the Heart of TV. There is little ugliness to be found on these shows and movies. You can always find a smile on the faces of the characters, even though there may be some tears as well. But there's not a lot of arguing and disagreements. What disappointment you find is often fleeting, as is the sadness, because Hallmark knows we watch to be uplifted. Hallmark Channel is, indeed, a happy place. And that's why it had a 9% growth last year alone.
Some viewers may call the movies and the series cheesy or trite, but to the viewers that tune in regularly, it's escapism. Hallmark Channel offers a way to shut out the disarray of the environment and of focus, however briefly, on the beauty of a world we often wished we lived in.
And during the Christmas holidays, Hallmark Channel has the market cornered on made-for-TV movies. Starting its Countdown-to-Christmas in October, it airs back-to-back romantic movies that draw in the viewers who want nothing more than to string the popcorn, trim the tree, and forget about news, their jobs, and whatever might go wrong the next day.
Hallmark Channel's offerings might not be for everyone, but it's clear it's found a strong fanbase that aren't going anywhere. Just ask the #Hearties.