Dec 16, 2019

The new Christmas culture war

Photo: Zola

The battle over what counts as "family-friendly" in America is currently raging over at the Christmas movie channel, with important lessons for anyone who runs a major corporation.

Why it matters: Media brands are under pressure to change their standards of what "family-friendly" looks like.

  • The Hallmark Channel has now twice reversed course on an advertiser's wedding spot that features two women kissing.
  • The network initially removed an ad from Zola, a wedding planning company, calling the commercial "divisive," before restoring it and apologizing the very next day.

Hallmark has thrived in recent years with Christmas movies that viewers mainline from late October through the New Year.

  • It's “your place to go to get away from politics, to get away from everything in your life that is problematic and negative," Bill Abbott, the CEO of Hallmark's entertainment company, told the New Yorker.
  • "Countdown to Christmas has made Hallmark the No. 1 cable network among women between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four, and, in some prime-time slots, No. 1 in households and total viewers," the New Yorker notes.

The big picture: The pressure isn't just coming from activist groups, but also corporate advertising partners, which are under enormous pressure today to take a stand on social issues.

  • Advertisers like Toyota came under fire over the weekend by activist groups who were pressuring them to pull their ads from the Hallmark Channel, unless the network reversed its decision.
  • Advertisers have also proven skeptical about running their ads against LGBTQ content, in fear that it could change the way their brands are perceived.

Between the lines: The industry is changing fast.

  • PBS is planning to increase its LGBTQ programming on broadcast and digital next year, sources tell Axios.
  • NPR was recently applauded for embracing a plurality of diverse voices on its air.
  • Disney hosted its first "Magical Pride" celebration at one of its theme parks in Paris earlier this year.
  • Highlights, a children's magazine, made headlines two years ago when it featured an illustration of a same-sex couple in an issue for the first time.

The bottom line: 61% of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 31% in 2004, according to Pew.

Go deeper

Hallmark Channel reverses decision to pull same-sex couple commercial

The Hallmark Channel has apologized and reversed a decision made at the request of a Christian mothers group to pull a commercial showing a same-sex couple kissing, its CEO said in a statement to news outlets including Axios Sunday.

Driving the news: The channel faced a social media backlash and calls for a boycott after pulling the ad, which the company said before the backflip was "distracting from the purpose of our network," per CNN.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Dec 16, 2019

Scoop: PBS is creating an LGTBQ-focused broadcast show

PBS is creating a new broadcast show and digital series centered around issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community, PBS Head of Digital Studios Brandon Arolfo said at a small PRNEWS event in Washington on Friday.

Why it matters: PBS is a publicly-funded broadcast network that was created to help educate the public, including kids. The network has always pushed to showcase diverse voices. In the past, conservative groups have criticized PBS for using taxpayer dollars to fund LGTBQ-friendly content.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019

Fox News hits record 2.5 million nightly viewers in 2019

Fox News' Sean Hannity. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Politicon

Fox News averaged 2.5 million viewers per night in 2019, a 23-year high that made it the most viewed channel on basic cable, The Hill reports.

Our thought bubble, via Axios’ Sara Fischer: The network's record viewership comes as Americans' news consumption has become increasingly polarized — and as the left-leaning cable news audience likely split its time between rivals CNN and MSNBC.

Go deeperArrowDec 30, 2019