Hallmark Channel Chief Bill Abbott Stepping Down In Wake Of Ad Controversy

Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbot is stepping down, barely a month after the Hallmark Channel’s handling of a same-sex ad created controversy.

Abbott’s last day at the company will be Friday. In a press release confirming the news, parent Hallmark Cards Inc. did not allude to the backlash over the treatment of the ad, which was pulled and then restored days later. But insiders tell Deadline it prompted the top exec’s exit.

“After 11 years, Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media is leaving the company,” said Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. in the release. “I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success.”

The ad, which began airing in early December, is for Zola.com, a wedding planning and registry company. It shows two women exchanging vows and later kissing to celebrate their nuptials. Conservative groups One Million Moms attacked the ad for not being “family-friendly.” After it was pulled, Hallmark faced an outcry. According to people familiar with the internal discussions, many people at the network expressed their preference for restoring the ad quickly, while Abbott went against their wishes and kept it off the air.

Before the storm over the ad, Abbott presided over a period of growth and visibility for Hallmark and its smaller sibling outlets. Christmas programming and regular opportunities for seasoned A-list stars continued to attract viewer and press attention for Hallmark on Abbott’s watch.

Perry expressed confidence in the team staying on to run the company’s media networks, saying he would personally lead a search for a new CEO.

“In a time when there is immense competition among television networks and streaming services, it is more important than ever that we find relevant new ways to grow our business and continue to produce high quality programming that resonates with our growing audience,” Perry said.

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