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February 5 2018

Divided Nation: Even Our TV Taste Reflects the Political Divide

by Charlotte Hays

I've been teasing some friends who say that they avoid the vulgarity and political correctness of the usual entertainment fare by almost exclusively watching movies on the Hallmark channel.

But it seems that they are trendsetters. As Steven Malanga reports in a City Journal article headlined "When Family Values Pay," more and more people with traditional values are tuning into Hallmark, making the channel a huge success.

Hallmark has been around since the 1950s, but country's political divide is reflected in our entertainment tastes and that is making Hallmark bigger than ever. Malanga writes:

People in regions that backed Donald Trump are more likely to watch shows that express traditional family values and also to steer away from political themes and stories that denigrate religion.

A brief scan of the productions that get touted for Emmy Awards these days is a reminder that the entertainment industry’s elite favors Clintonesque themes, from the dystopian Handmaid’s Tale (this year’s winner for Best Drama) to the political drama House of Cards, set in a decadent Washington, and the grim, futuristic Westworld—each earning Best Drama nominations.

And, if Hallmark's financials are an indication, there are just a lot of people who prefer wholesome to dystopian:

Amid declining viewership and revenue at many TV networks, the Hallmark channels are on a roll, particularly during their end-of-the-year period of unabashedly traditional Christmas programming. In 2016, viewership for the Hallmark Channel was up 36 percent, while the Movies & Mysteries channel notched a 46 percent gain.

The momentum continued into 2017, with a big payoff coming during November and December, when both networks show wall-to-wall Christmas movies, including dozens of new productions and favorites from the Hallmark archives. In mid-November 2017, the Hallmark Channel was the third most-watched network on cable television, averaging more than 2 million viewers per day. Only ESPN and Fox News did better.

Hallmark does best outside the major urban centers, where the elites dominate. Significantly, it has seen a fifty percent increase in smaller markets. You'd think that the mainstream entertainment industry would realize that Hallmark's popularity has a message for them. But you would be wrong:

Television producers are typically quick to emulate the latest success. But for many, apparently, Hallmark-style programming that appeals to red-state residents is a bridge too far. The loss is theirs. Has any successful TV network ever enjoyed such a distinctive competitive advantage?

Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large are so committed to darker, more politically plugged in fare and seem inclined to stick to it, no matter the cost. 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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