Christmas Comes Early For Hallmark Media And CEO Wonya Lucas

Holiday enthusiasm appears exponential given retail spending predictions and spikes in Christmas content and consumption. Leading the pack in the Christmas movie genre it has shaped, Hallmark Channel, led by president and CEO Wonya Lucas, saw the holiday bounty continue in the eighth week of its Countdown to Christmas programming.

In the fourth quarter to-date (9/26-12/11/22), Hallmark Channel ranks as the most watched entertainment cable network among Households, Women 25-54, Women 18-49, Total Viewers, and Women and Persons 18+ (according to Hallmark release of Nielsen Live+SD data for 12/5/22-12/11/22, 9/26/22-12/11/22, excluding news and sports). Ranking #1 entertainment cable network of the week in Total Day and Weekend Total Day among Households, Women 18+, Total Viewers, Women 25-54, and Women and Persons 18-49, the programming franchise’s holiday season to-date (10/21/22 to 12/11/22) has reached over 36.3 million unduplicated total viewers.

Hallmark Channel and its Countdown to Christmas content that launched in fall have helped highlight the benefits of breaking out the tinsel early. Looking at the numbers, there’s apparently no such thing as seasonal overkill.

Binge-watching Hallmark holiday movies has become a favored and growing activity. It also seems like Hallmark audiences are more verbal than ever when it comes to promoting their “guilty pleasure” of consuming Hallmark content. I asked CEO Wonya Lucas if Hallmark fans were part of the secret of success for Hallmark publicity.

Countdown to Christmas has become an annual tradition that brings people together, helping them forge meaningful connections around a positive, celebratory entertainment. We have millions of passionate, devoted fans who are extremely active on social media, so they certainly help us spread the word! In addition, we have a really tight-knit family of talent, and they support one another’s projects on their own social media channels. This kind of organic promotion, which comes from the heart, and you can’t make it up! It is absolutely invaluable,” says Lucas.

Actor Beth Broderick, a longtime star of Christmas movies, including many for Hallmark Channel, co-stars in this season’s When I Think of Christmas (2022). “People really crave stories about themselves, so they respond to the Hallmark material so genuinely…Hallmark makes an effort to meet people where they live. And they have always made an effort to grow in different directions.”

Broderick has found that, unlike in other films where she has been cast as “just the mom” who’s attending a wedding and/or funeral, her roles for Hallmark Channel movies have complexity and depth. “My character has a full story arc that is as big as the younger character’s,” explains Broderick.

That’s saying a lot in an industry that is quick to ignore or marginalize female actors over the age of 50. At quick glance, the content of Hallmark Channel and that of its linear networks (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama) also seems to be steering away from the ageist commentary and negative age-related stereotypes that remain commonplace in feature films. When a movie reminds viewers that everyone has a story worth sharing, it increases the probability of connectivity.

More cross-generational content is in the works for 2023. Says Lucas, “We’re really excited to bring back The Wedding Veil trilogy, starring Lacey Chabert, Autumn Reeser, and Alison Sweeney. Similar to the three movies earlier this year, the three new installments are a continuation of the stories of best friends Avery, Emma, and Tracy and their lives after marriage —the first of which, The Wedding Veil Expectations, premieres January 7. We also have two exciting series, The Way Home, which premieres on January 15 and follows the lives of three generations of women – Kat, played by Chyler Leigh, Alice, played by Sadie Laflamme-Snow, and Del, played by the incredible Andie MacDowell and Ride, a family drama centered on a rodeo dynasty. And of course, we’re already planning for Christmas ’23!”

I had to ask—Does the holiday home of the President and CEO of Hallmark Media look anything like a Hallmark movie? Lucas is a role model who doesn’t disappoint.

“Absolutely! It’s probably a bit more over the top, if you can believe it! Every room has a bit of Christmas throughout the house. I personally hand string lights for over 125 ft of garland for my house! I’ve got everything except the Christmas village, which I think I go out and get this year!”

I think there’s a movie about that.