Bill Abbott to leave after company apologized for decision to pull ads featuring same-sex wedding on Hallmark Channel

The CEO of the Hallmark Channels parent is leaving, weeks after the channel found itself in a firestorm of controversy over commercials featuring a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Bill Abbotts
departure as president and chief executive of Crown Media Family Networks will be effective on Friday, Hallmark Cards Inc. said Wednesday.I will begin a search for Bills replacement, said Hallmark Cards CEO
Mike Perry.
Hallmark Cards Inc. owns Crown Media Family Networks, which owns the Hallmark Channel.
Mr. Abbott didnt respond to a phone call seeking comment, and the company declined to make Mr. Abbott available for comment.
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Mr. Abbott in November had said the Hallmark Channel would be open to LGBTQ-friendly programming, prompting some viewers to call the network to criticize the idea. Then in early December, when the network began airing ads from wedding-planning firm Zola Inc. featuring a wedding of two brides, complaints flooded in.
On Dec. 10, the company learned that One Million Moms, a division of the conservative American Family Association, published a petition urging Hallmark to reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples.
Mr. Abbott and other network executives decided to pull the plug on the Zola ad on Dec. 12.
A swift backlash ensued. On Dec. 14, gay-rights advocacy group Glaad told Hallmark it had plans to call the Hallmark Channels advertisers and suggest they pull their ads in protest. That evening, the comedy-sketch program Saturday Night Live poked fun at the One Million Moms petition during its Weekend Update segment.
Hallmark Cards executive leadership team decided to reverse the decision during a Dec. 15 afternoon conference call, according to the company. Mr. Perry, the Hallmark Cards CEO, in a statement that day said the move by the Crown Media team to pull the ad was the wrong decision.
The backlash over Hallmark Channels handling of the ad came during the holiday season, when it normally enjoys its highest ratings of the year.
In the week before Christmas, immediately after the controversy, the network drew an average of 1.7 million viewers, down from about two million in 2018, according to Nielsen data. For the television season that started in September, the channel is averaging 1.5 million viewers, down 17% from the previous year.
Mr. Abbott had been with Crown Media for 11 years, according to the Hallmark Cards statement. I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success, Mr. Perry said.
Write to Patience Haggin at patience.haggin@wsj.com
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