It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas GAC Media chairman Bill Abbott and the other elves sell advertising Big American family Original films and other holiday programs.
Abbott, the former head of Hallmark Channel who founded GAC last year and follows the Hallmark Holiday Programming Playbook, shared broadcast+cable that high-profile sponsors such as Dairy Queen, Allstate, Physicians Mutual, Expedia, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, L’Oreal, Chase and Boar’s Head are advertising on the network, many for the first time.
“We had such a successful start,” said Abbot. “We picked a lot of fruit that was probably also low-hanging. And next [year] We’re going to reach that next level of success with more of these blue-chip advertisers and diverse categories, and drive sales to higher levels.”
Kristen Roberts, chief revenue officer and executive vice president of programming at GAC Media, narrates B+C that the dollar volume of upfront advertising commitments doubled and that prices on a cost-per-1000-viewer basis increased by approximately 50%.
Most of these advertisers have signed up to advertise on GAC year-round, but some only advertise during the holiday-heavy fourth quarter.
“We assume that we will always see that. Our highest valuations of the year are in the fourth quarter, so we’re trying to push as many dollars into the fourth quarter as we can,” Roberts said. “It’s probably like 30% or something [of revenue] falls in the fourth quarter.”
At least one advertiser is close to finalizing a product integration deal, but GAC didn’t sell any single-film or season “presented by” packages this year. Those deals will be available next year to help GAC raise prices, Abbott noted.
Being small and new has made it easier for Great American Family to navigate a weaker scatter market as it currently doesn’t need too much advertising money to hit its sales goals.
Roberts anticipates that the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend programming, featuring films starring Candace Cameron Bure, Danica McKellar and Gladys Knight, will appeal to advertisers looking to engage shoppers.
Just as many of the stars of the new films are known to GAC Hallmark film fans, most of the new GAC advertisers were clients Abbott and Roberts knew from their Hallmark days. Abbott doubted Hallmark would feel the pinch from GAC poaching this year. “No one holds a favor on their behalf. I think they’re doing pretty well,” Abbott said. “We wish you much success.”
Great American Family plans to show Christmas movies 24 hours a day, seven days a week from October 21 through the end of the year under the Great American Christmas umbrella. This includes 18 new titles, a 50% increase from last year when the channel was known as the GAC Family.
The first movie of this season Definitely for Christmas, set a ratings record for the network with 540,000 viewers for its premiere, accordion to Nielsen. iSpot.TV estimates that the film generated a total of 60.5 million TV ad impressions and $323,000 in ad spend from brands including Revlon, Physicians Mutual, NetCredit, Marathon Petroleum and Home Depot.
GAC’s October 29 film Gastronomy Christmas generated 36 million ad impressions and $214,000 in spend, according to iSpot.
Royal Christmas on icethe film, as of November 5, had 28.4 million views and $171,000 in ad spend and Love at the Christmas contest generated 20.5 million ad impressions and $147,000 in revenue.
Christmas wasn’t so merry for GAC last year. Abbott completed the deal to acquire Great American Country and Ride TV in July 2021. By this time, GAC’s previous owner, Discovery, had been conducting pre-sales.
When Abbott decided to load Great American Family (then known as GAC Family) with original vacation films, most of the network’s inventory was already committed and most advertisers had already allocated their spend.
Rushing that first series of holiday programming last season was a decision Abbott puzzled over.
“We learned that you don’t just broadcast Christmas trees and get ratings. We tried that last year,” Abbott said. And while he questioned the strategy for a while, he now thinks it’s the right thing to do.
“We have a library of quality films with talent that viewers know and love. And that makes all the difference in terms of this year’s schedule,” Abbott said.
“Doing what we did last year was necessary to get to this point where we can be Christmas 24/7. The viewers who found us for the first time this year, these films are new to them,” added Roberts. I think we’re seeing a lot of that in the ratings right now.”
Having established the quality of the films, Great American Family would also take a stronger position with the advertisers. Earlier this year, we had a much larger advertiser base and much larger dollar volume, Roberts said.
Since Abbott left Hallmark, the Christmas movie category has become much busier with broadcast networks, cable channels, and streaming services all getting into the holiday spirit.
“I think it has become more demanding. You have to be so much more creative and so much more focused on connecting your message to your environment and so much more aggressive,” Abbott said.
“It’s so crowded out there that it takes a long time to build a brand and build awareness,” he said. “Even in the advertising community, we have really strong relationships, but there are a lot of opportunities out there.”
For advertisers who purchased Great American Family after the fourth quarter, the network will air 20 original romantic comedy films that will air throughout the year.
Original series launches will likely take a few more years, Abbott said.
GAC launched its Great American Community app in September, featuring 15 original short-form series.
Abbott said the app got a lot of people to sign up, but didn’t share specific numbers. “To be honest, it’s a tough exercise. We create content at a very feverish pace, with five videos being released per day.
He said that, as expected, people are drawn to videos about cooking, decorating and talent from the network. Others have not attracted as many viewers.
But the app generates a lot of data about Great American Living’s audience, and some of the short videos could serve as backdoor pilots for that channel.
“It’s sort of our first season, and we’re going to take those learnings as we go into season two and apply them, particularly from the perspective of the experience and what the community stands for,” he said. “Last but not least, it’s a great brand extension.” ■