Former Hallmark Channel CEO Bill Abbott says that he believes his new channel — Great American Family — will one day outperform competing channels like Hallmark, he revealed in an interview with USA Today. Abbott also shared more behind-the-scenes details on the network’s future, as did Candace Cameron Bure.
Abbott Said Great American Family Has a ‘Lofty’ Objective
Abbott left The Hallmark Channel in January 2020 after 11 years, The Hollywood Reporter reported. He left following controversies over same-sex commercials that were removed from the channel during the Christmas season. In July 2020, Hallmark brought on Wonya Lucas as the new CEO and president of The Hallmark Channel.
Abbott told USA Today that he was “just ready for something different,” when he left Hallmark.
Then in June 2021, it was announced that Abbott was part of an investment group that had purchased two TV networks, which are now known as Great American Family and Great American Living. Today, Abbott is CEO of the parent company, Great American Media.
Today, Great American Family has already kicked off its second season of Christmas movies. And while the ratings are far behind Hallmark’s, Abbott told USA Today that he believes Great American Family will one day come out ahead.
“We believe we’ll be the leader in quality family entertainment in this space,” he said. “…That’s a lofty and challenging objective. But we think we have the team in place to do it and the experience to do it.”
In a previous interview with The Wall Street Journal, Abbott said: “We’re not actively going out and poaching from Hallmark. We have many more talent approaching us than we have movies to put them in… It’s nothing more than competition, and I certainly don’t wish them ill in any way.”
Abbott has signed on quite a few Hallmark stars to Great American Family, including Danica McKellar and Candace Cameron Bure, who is also taking on an executive role.
USA Today reported that the Hallmark Channel is currently in about 70 million homes, while Great American Family is in 25 million homes. According to ShowBuzzDaily, Great American Family’s first Christmas movie, “Destined at Christmas,” reached 330,000 live viewers, marking the first time the network hit the Top 100 for a Saturday movie at #97. However, it was still far behind Hallmark’s numbers. Hallmark’s “We Wish You a Married Christmas” brought in 1.89 million live viewers, for a ranking of #16. “We Need a Little Christmas” on Hallmark Mysteries brought in 781,000 viewers at #76.
Bure Talked About the Network’s Future Plans
USA Today asked Bure about Hallmark’s inclusivity push and if GAF would do the same.
Bure replied: “We certainly don’t want to be exactly like any other network, and I know that Great American Family will focus on tradition…That’s something that is important, to have people of all ethnicities in the movies, but we’re going to focus on traditional families.” USA Today added that this included families “consisting of a mom and dad.”
In answer to the same question, Abbott said: “we always want to be inclusive, and it’s certainly it’s always an area of focus.”
USA Today noted that three out of 18 of this year’s GAF movies had people of color in the lead roles, but no storylines involved same-sex couples.
In an interview with Variety, Bure shared that part of the network’s diversity will include focusing on different holidays in the future.
“Well, this year, we’re absolutely focusing on Christmas. I’m sure as the channel continues to build content, it will include other holidays, but I think we know the core audience and what they love is exactly how Bill originally built the Hallmark Channel and that was Christmas and those traditional holidays,” she shared.