Commentary

Q&A With Crown Media CEO Bill Abbott

Although Bill Abbott started his career as a buyer at an agency, he soon moved into research, where he honed his strong analytical skills, and then on to affiliates and sales. But it was in research, according to Bill, where he gained his strong grounding for his future media roles, learning what drives the bottom line and what determines success and failure.  His current position as the CEO of Crown Media gives him the ability to put all his experience to good use in steering his corporation through a sea of media change and disruption.  In my interview with him, Bill talks about Independent networks, Hallmark programming, current research efforts in his company and some insights into how the media landscape will look in the next five years.

Below is a short excerpt from the interview, whose videos can be viewed here.

CW: Crown Media properties are one of the few independent properties in television. Can you tell us some of the pros and cons of being an independent?

BA: The challenges are well documented and I think many of those challenges are overplayed to a degree. On the advertising side, it can be an advantage for us to be an independent because we can work much more quickly, we are much more flexible and we don’t jam clients with a lot of other properties that they might not want to buy. So we think that being an independent on the advertising side can be an advantage.

On the negative side, certainly the distribution equation is more challenging   because we don’t have the leverage of a broadcast network or a sports property that is a must-have.

The Cable Act of 1992 unfortunately has created an environment where broadcast networks are able to command disproportionately high retransmissions fees from our distribution partners, where those cable assets residing under the same roof are granted added leverage. This creates an uneven playing field. We could have another half-hour conversation on that subject alone. That is the major drawback to being an independent: those government regulations that put us, as independent programmers, at a distinct disadvantage.

CW: Because Crown Media has businesses beyond television – you have the greeting card business for example --  you probably have some great datasets. Are you using them? If so, how?

BA: You are getting into some of the key hidden advantages that we have as a part of the Hallmark brand. We have a database of 14 million Gold Crown enthusiasts who love Hallmark stores and who love the brand. We target those potential viewers on a monthly basis. We also have access to the Keepsake enthusiasts who collect Keepsake Ornaments, and to general research Hallmark does about our consumers, our brand, and our viewers. We don’t want to overstep our boundaries within the bigger Hallmark Cards umbrella but we feel extremely fortunate to be a part of such an iconic, well-established brand and to have access to important data that allows us to reach out to those consumers for whom the Hallmark legacy strongly resonates.

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