Bill Abbott, executive vp of advertising sales, will replace Schleiff as president and chief executive officer. He will report to Donald J. Hall, co-chairman of Crown Media Holdings.
Schleiff came to the network three years ago after a long stint running Court TV, as chairman/CEO. He is credited with spearheading improved major distribution agreements for Hallmark's cable operators -- especially in increasing per-month subscribers' fees.
In a release -- saying the decision was amicable -- Schleiff said he wanted to return to helping smaller cable networks achieve their potential.
Under Abbott's reign, national advertising revenues increased to $223 million in 2008, from $10.2 million. Abbott is also credited with offering highly customized advertising packages, including less-cluttered limited ad inventory deals for the channel's made-for movie presentations -- something that has been followed by other cable networks.
Prior to joining Crown Media, Abbott held senior positions at Fox Family Worldwide, including Fox Family Channel and Fox Kids Network. Abbott was in contention for the top Hallmark spot in 2006.
Part of Schleiff's contract included incentives if Hallmark were to be sold. Even before Schleiff's arrival at the company, Hallmark tried to partner or be sold to bigger media entities. The company's efforts to sell itself ended in the spring of 2006.
Business analysts say it is difficult for a cable network -- or other traditional media -- to make major gains as an independent company.
The Hallmark Channel has 86 million subscribers, and ranks among the top ten ad-supported cable networks in prime-time household ratings.