Africa gets re-branded Hallmark Channel first


At 9pm on 24 March, Africa will be the first in the world to receive the re-branded Hallmark Channel, on MultiChoice’s DStv bouquet. Owned by Universal Networks International, Hallmark Channel will now be known as Universal Channel.

The re-branded channel will retain all the elements that made it popular on the DStv platform (ie. high quality series and films) but with an emphasis on premium, original first run content. Hallmark Channel has an estimated 3.7 million subscribers across Africa.

John Burnett and Francois Roux of Universal Networks International, the global channels division of NBC Universal, made the announcement at a launch in Johannesburg on 18 February. They noted that the Universal Channel’s introduction into the South African pay-TV market was strategically timed to happen before the country’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in June.

Commenting on the rationale behind the re-branding Burnett said: “Despite the fact that Hallmark has been performing very well we felt the brand had certain restrictions. For instance, some people confuse the Hallmark channel with Hallmark greeting cards. Our research showed that men tend to watch Hallmark with their wives, whereas we believe they will watch the Universal Channel on their own. The Universal brand is much broader as it encompasses Steven Spielberg films and other famous films. There is also the Universal Theme Park.

“However, our first priority with Universal Channel is to serve the same audience as before. So we will continue offering Hallmark favourites like Navy NCSI, Being Erica, Midsomer Murders, House, etc. Popular slots such as Essential Wednesday and Strictly for Girls will remain as will the DStv channel number. There is a definite demand in Africa for more US programming.

“A key part of the channel is character – all our shows are character-driven. Consider Dr Gregory House from House, Erica Strange from Being Erica and Jack McCoy from Law and Order. Sensation is a word we use a lot with our channel – our shows cause sensations. We want the channel to develop its own personality. Our aim is to expand our business in South Africa and we thought it was a good market in which to start the name change.”

Roux added: “We work very closely with MultiChoice. They told us that Hallmark was a good channel but that there was room for improvement. We’ve taken their feedback to heart and worked on our offering.” The new series of the long running Law & Order franchise will premiere on 24 November, as will new series of Psych and Monk.

Screen Africa 19 Feb 2010