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The holiday season on the small screen doesn't truly start until the Hallmark Christmas movies start airing, and viewers generally don't have to wait too long after the temperature starts dropping for the festivity to kick off on the cable channel. According to a recent report, Hallmark's 2019 Christmas movies won big in the ratings as well as in the hearts of diehard fans who sit down to watch the "cheesy" stories every year.
In fact, Hallmark soundly defeated another key cable network in the pre-Christmas week of December 16-22. According to Business Insider, Hallmark scored more than 1.7 million viewers overall during primetime hours that week. To contrast, CNN's audience was only 1.5 million during the December 16-22 week.
This isn't to say that Hallmark dominated all cable competition, though, as it unsurprisingly trailed behind Fox News at the top with its 3.1 million viewers, ESPN in second with 2.1 million, and MSNBC in third with 1.8 million. Still, the 1.7 million marked another victory for Hallmark with its seemingly endless supply of Christmas (and now Hannukah) movies!
Of course, Hallmark did kick off its holiday season a lot earlier than usual this year, although not in the marathon format of December. Two original Christmas movies were scheduled to hit the airwaves in July, more than five months before Christmas.
Additionally, there were more Christmas movies than ever before in 2019, and the strong numbers from 2019 could mean even more holiday movies in 2020. Even thought there's no shortage of classic Hallmark Christmas movies worth rewatching, new ones will likely always have an audience.
The strong viewership numbers that took Hallmark over CNN came in spite of Hallmark generating a lot of negative buzz in the lead-up to December 16-22. Earlier in the month, a lesbian kiss from a commercial that aired on the network sparked backlash from advocacy group One Million Moms, prompting Hallmark to pull the ad and lose its ties with Zola, the company that ran the ads in the first place. Then, in another flip after backlash from viewers protesting the decision to pull the ad, Hallmark decided to begin airing the LGBTQ commercial again and issued an apology.
The apology released on December 15, so the ad was welcome back in circulation on Hallmark by the time the pre-Christmas week kicked off. Was the size of the audience impacted by the controversy? On the one hand, the outcry first against the ad by the advocacy group and then the backlash from the many people who protested Hallmark pulling the ad provided some publicity for the network, even if it wasn't the greatest publicity.
On the other hand, the backlash was significant, and it ran the risk of reducing the number of people willing to sit down and enjoy the Hallmark Christmas movie festivities. Might the numbers have been even higher and perhaps even taken Hallmark above MSNBC into third place if not for the controversy? Or lower if all the news hadn't brought Hallmark into the news cycle and reminded people about the home of the holiday movies? Or did the buzz around the ad have no impact whatsoever?
We'll never know for sure, but what is definite is that Hallmark put up a strong showing with its Christmas fare directly before the holiday. It should be interesting to see the network's numbers through the end of December and even the beginning of January, as Hallmark isn't done with the holiday movies just because Christmas 2019 is done. For more of what you can look forward to in the new year, swing by our 2020 winter and spring TV premiere schedule!