This image made from undated video provided by Zola shows a scene of its advertisement that features two brides kissing. (Photo: Zola via AP)
Bill Abbott, the president and CEO of Hallmark’s parent company, Crown Media, is stepping down.
The move comes 11 years after Abbott began his position, and just one month after the Hallmark Channel faced backlash for removing an ad that features two brides kissing.
In a statement, Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards Inc., confirmed that Abbott is leaving the company.
“I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success,” Perry said.
There was no reason given for Abbott’s departure, but Perry said his team “will begin a search for Bill’s replacement.”
Bill Abbott, the head of Hallmark’s media business, is leaving the company after 11 years. (Photo: Richard Shotwell, Invision/AP)
Perry’s statement continued: “In a time when there is immense competition among television networks and streaming services, it is more important than ever that we find relevant new ways to grow our business and continue to produce high quality programming that resonates with our growing audience.”
Under Abbott’s watch, Hallmark’s schmaltzy, mostly homogenous movie channel added two movies that included Hanukkah (as opposed to only Christmas) in 2019. In a November interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Abbott responded to a question about how Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies feature primarily white leads.
“In terms of broadening out the demographic, it’s something we’re always thinking about, always considering, and we’ll continue to make the movies where the best scripts are delivered to us and what we think have the most potential,” he said.
Abbott’s departure comes as a surprise, because Hallmark Channel has had steady viewership. As Hallmark spokesperson Molly Biwer shared in a press release, Nielsen tracks that Hallmark Channel reached more than 1.7 million overall viewers during prime time hours between Dec. 16 and 22.
Hallmark Channel did get some negative press over the holidays, however. In December, the network pulled a Zola ad that featured two women kissing at the altar. At the time, the hashtag #BoycottHallmarkChannel was trending on Twitter and celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner assailed the decision.
So Hallmark reversed course and reinstated the ad for the wedding services site. Perry issued a statement then saying that Hallmark “has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused.” He went on to say the choice to pull the ad was “wrong” and “We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
As of Wednesday afternoon Abbott’s verified Twitter profile still described him as a president and CEO at Hallmark.
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