Mahogany Ushers In the First of Many Changes for the Newly Rebranded Hallmark Media

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: Mahogany Ushers In the First of Many Changes for the Newly Rebranded Hallmark Media

As a part of their continual evolution, it was announced this week that Crown Media, the parent company of Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Movies Now and Hallmark Drama is undergoing a rebrand. "We are now Hallmark Media," shared network President and CEO Wonya Lucas on Wednesday during a panel at the Summer 2022 Virtual Television Critics Association press tour. "Admittedly, as a true brand nerd, it is meaningful to have the Hallmark name front and center," she said. "No more saying, 'Crown Media, the home of the Hallmark Channel,' like I have said a few times a day and every day.

"[Now] when you say 'Hallmark,' no caveats or 'home of' references are required," she continued. "People know what they're getting. As we collaborate more closely with our parent company Hallmark, this evolution in our own brand identity is a no-brainer. It allows us to better align with Hallmark. It makes sense and resonates with our viewers and our business partners. And of course, we are now in name, what we are at our core.

"The Hallmark brand is the driving force behind everything we do. With a legacy of over 110 years, Hallmark is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and one people associate with kindness, positivity, celebrations, holidays and the big and small moments that give our lives meaning. Our brand is centered around love of every kind and love for all. Over the last two plus decades, we have established a programming niche that brings to life the Hallmark brand."

As a part of that collaboration, Lucas announced a new programming initiative that will form an annex to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, utilizing their existing Mahogany IP, one that has for the last 34 years serviced the Black community. "The programming initiative is rooted in the spirit and sensibility of the iconic [Mahogany] Hallmark card line," she said. "The launch of Mahogany marks a seminal moment in the evolution of Hallmark content, with authentic stories about friendship, family, community and love through the unique lens of Black women."

First in the initiative is the movie Unthinkably Good Things, premiering August 28. (It was screened Wednesday night at a gala Mahogany event in Pasadena.) Filmed on location in Italy, the film is a testament to friendship and sisterhood and is the perfect vehicle for Mahogany's maiden voyage. However, Mahogany is just the beginning. "Mahogany and Unthinkably Good Things are just the first of many initiatives to come that will translate Hallmark IP into heartwarming onscreen entertainment," Lucas said. "We're also exploring opportunities with other Hallmark card brands, and sister company Crayola. The common denominator of our content is love in all its many forms. We believe all humans deserve and are worthy of love and seeing themselves and loving relationships through our storytelling.

"Romantic love for sure," she continued. "And if you add the love we have for parents, siblings, friends, children and beyond, simply put, our brand and our content mean something important to our viewers. We take this responsibility seriously and deliver on [that] promise 24/7 in everything we do. We live it and breathe it. I pitched Mahogany during my interview, and it’s in my head for a lot of reasons. I had a friend say, 'My husband drives 30 miles to get a Mahogany card.' That passion I talked about exists with Mahogany. It makes sense to bring [it] to life through storytelling."

Lucas acknowledged that while Hallmark Media's target demographic is women, the company is well aware of the legions of male viewers who tune in. However, women are the driving force behind their continued success and something to be recognized in a behind-the-scenes initiative they're launching. "We believe stories made for women should also have women creators behind the camera," she said. "We work with incredible male and female writers, directors and producers who want to provide opportunities for aspiring female creatives to learn and practice the craft. With inspiration, and participation from actor and director Ashley Williams, we're officially launching Hallmark's Make Her Mark -- a reciprocal director mentorship initiative -- in the New Year."

On the programming front, two new series will hit Hallmark in 2023, the first in six years. Ride, currently shooting in Calgary, headed by Nancy Travis, focuses on a multigenerational rodeo family. The Way Home, currently in production in Toronto, marks the return of Andie McDowell to the Hallmark family and follows the lives of three generations of women trying to unravel the impact of life-changing events that created a deep rift within their family.

As Chesapeake Shores ends its six-year run, When Calls the Heart remains the last original series standing at Hallmark. That series will return for a tenth season in 2023. There was also potential good news for long-time devotees of Good Witch (and a possible return to the movie format that launched the series), and the #Postables, who have long championed a return of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. "As far as Good Witch, we're always interested in thinking about what we can do with our most popular IPs," advised Lisa Hamilton Daily, Executive Vice President, Programming. "I can't announce anything specific about that. As for Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I don't think we're finished with that."

"The #Postables -- the Signed, Sealed, Delivered fans -- send us a lot of letters, and we read them," Lucas said. "The fandom and the passion for that franchise is unusual. We listen, we're here, and I'd say standby."

Photos by Steve Gidlow.

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