The Great American Family rocks the Christmas movie season

Christmas movie fans will be busier than ever with holiday movies this year as competition heats up and temperatures drop. Upstart Great American Family joins the battle of the Christmas movies for Season 2, going head-to-head against influencers including Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and more.

Since Great American Christmas debuted on Oct. 21, the company said, the family-friendly religious channel has become the fastest growing of all cable networks. The film lineup features a host of former Hallmark Channel stars, including Candace Cameron Bure, Danica McKellar, Jessica Lowndes, Jane Lilly, Lori Loughlin, Cameron Mathison and Jill Wagner.

The Great American Family spins about 50 Christmas movies around the clock during New Year’s Day, including 18 originals. However, the “original” total is somewhat larger for many viewers because the channel launched in June 2021, which means many people have never seen the 2021 movies.

The big bet

Candace Cameron Bure and Marc Blucas in the Great American Family movie “Christmas … Gift (2022) (Courtesy: Great American Family)

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CEO and President Bill Abbott said Great American Family took a big risk by releasing 12 original Christmas movies last year, including the “When Hope Calls Christmas” two-parter.

“At the time we’re honestly sorry we made such a big commitment right away because it takes time for the audience to find you and learn about your network,” he told FOX Business.

The bet paid off. Ratings shot up during the first Christmas season as more viewers discovered the great American family and gave the channel a strong start to its second season.

“A lot of our content, while not original, is original to a lot of people this year and I think the ratings show that,” said Abbott. “We’re up to three digits from where we were last year and overall, we feel very good about the progress we’ve made.”

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In October, Abbott tweeted that the opening weekend of the Christmas movie set records for families and viewers.

comfort food

Christmas... Present (2022))

Marc Blucas, Candace Cameron Bure, Daryl Cox, Caleb Rhys Paul, and Claire Capek in “A Christmas… Present” by The Great American Family (2022) (Courtesy: Great American Family)

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Abbott came to the Great American Family from Hallmark, where he was President and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, and the father of the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

His new channel follows a strategy similar to that of Hallmark. Abbott says a good Christmas movie is about feelings, connecting people, and positive, comforting and warm experiences while celebrating, too.

“It’s comfort food. It’s the kind of content that stands the test of time because you might know what’s going to happen, but that’s how you get there. It’s the journey that makes it fun and makes it fun,” he explained.

Secret sauce

Gillian Murray and Joseph Cannata in the great American family’s Christmas movie “A Brush With Christmas,” premiering December 18, 2022. (Courtesy: Great American Family)

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Abbott believes in quality and consistency.

“The genre gets a bad name in many ways because there’s a lot of low-budget content that’s being produced to provide volume and not necessarily quality, and we focus on quality.”

He adds that Christmas movies are not the type to encourage experimentation.

“I think pitches that we don’t like very much are where someone will come in and give us 80% of a great story and then say, ‘Then we do something totally unexpected that’s going to be very interesting to the viewer and so different.'” “It’s not what we’re about and it’s not what we’re looking to do,” Abbott said.

He adds that the channel works hard to stay away from anything dark, vulgar, or uncomfortable for the audience.

Aisle Be Home for Christmas movie

Jennifer Freeman and Garrett Watson in the Great American Family Christmas Movie “Aisle Be Home for Christmas” Premieres December 17, 2022 (Courtesy: Great American Family)

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This does not limit creativity. This year’s list includes “Christmas at the Drive-In” and “Aisle Be Home for Christmas,” a story set inside a department store. “Drive-In” did well in the ratings. “Aisle” premieres December 17th.

Creating a good Christmas movie, Abbott says, is “an art form” that balances diversity and keeps the stories consistent enough to create a common experience across all content.

“It’s definitely a system that stays true to who you are and true to the brand you’re building. And that will be what drives our long-term success,” he said.

Aisle Be Home for Christmas (2022)

Jennifer Freeman in The Great American Family Christmas Special “Aisle Be Home for Christmas” Premieres December 17, 2022 (Courtesy: Great American Family)

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Great American Family was formed in June 2021 when the Abbott Company and Dallas-based Hicks Equity Partners acquired Great American Country and Ride TV. The two channels were renamed GAC Family and GAC Living, respectively. GAC became a great American family in August.

The channel is available in more than 50 million homes and ranks 66th in popularity, according to US TVDB. The Hallmark Channel ranks it 10th and Lifetime ranks it 31st.

The channel’s free direct-to-consumer app is approaching 100,000 subscribers two months after its launch.

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