Just a month after flip-flopping on a controversial ad featuring a lesbian “wedding” and teasing that the channel may soon include LGBT lead characters, the Hallmark Channel’s head executive has resigned.
Bill Abbott, former CEO and President of Crown Media Family Networks stepped down last week according to a statement from Hallmark.
“After 11 years, Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media is leaving the company,” said Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. “I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success.”
“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,” he continued. “I have tremendous confidence in the Crown Media management team and with this team in place, I will begin a search for Bill’s replacement.”
While the statement did not cite a reason for Abbott’s departure from the company, it is very interesting to note that this all takes place just over a month after the big hoopla regarding Hallmark’s supposed lack of LGBT representation.
“I’m gay, where are the same-sex movies?” Abbott was asked during a Hollywood Reporter podcast in December by its lesbian co-host who complained that she and her partner felt unrepresented by the channel’s Christmas programming. “Have you talked about incorporating stories about same-sex couples at Christmas?”
While Abbott responded that Hallmark is “always thinking about” broadening its demographics, he seemed to suggest that the brand was not looking to sacrifice its mission of being “relentlessly positive, family friendly, [and] always appropriate for all members of the family” just to earn LGBT brownie points.
“We are always encouraging people to bring us stories across the board,” Abbott explained. “And it’s not always that simple a process where you put the word out and you get back three great scripts and three great stories. We put the word out that we’re doing an original series and we get 50 bad stories. So it’s not as easy as I think you’re making it sound and it’s certainly something that we do discuss consistently with our team and with our talent and with the agencies.”
Later in December, the channel featured an ad for Zola.com, a wedding planning site, which was quickly pulled after massive backlash and several petitions from conservative viewers.
The decision to pull the ad sparked its own backlash among LGBT people, however, and Mike Perry quickly announced that pulling the ads was the “wrong decision.”
“Earlier this week, a decision was made at Crown Media Family Networks to remove commercials featuring a same-sex couple,” Perry said at the time. “The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused. Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts for this purpose is not who we are. As the CEO of [Hallmark Cards], I am sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
What do you think, folks? Will you keep watching Hallmark?
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