What Is Great American Family? Everything to Know About Hallmark and Lifetime’s Holiday Movie Competitor
The world of holiday programming continues to grow. While Hallmark Channel and Lifetime have seen major success with their “Countdown to Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” slates, respectively, Great American Family joined the discussion in 2021.
In June 2021, the network, originally tilted Great American Country (GAC), was acquired by GAC Media, a group formed by former Hallmark CEO Bill Abbott and Hicks Equity Partners. In the fall of that year, the network was relaunched as GAC Family. (Abbott stepped down from Hallmark Media in 2020, shortly after the network faced backlash for pulling a Zola ad featuring a same-sex couple.)
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Under GAC Media, Great American Country changed to “GAC Family” and later to “Great American Family” — the title they have gone by since August 2022. The channel became similar in content to what Abbott had created at Hallmark, including original made-for-TV movies, holiday programming and big franchises. However, it also focuses more heavily on faith-driven programming.
GAF acquired Season 2 of “When Hope Calls,” a spin-off of Hallmark Channel’s “When Calls the Heart,” as well as reruns of “Fuller House,” which was only available on Netflix prior to the deal. After Hallmark Channel axed their annual “Kitten Bowl” special on the day of the Super Bowl, Abbott picked it up and will air the first “Great American Rescue Bowl” in February.
On the talent side, many familiar faces in the holiday movie world made the move over to Great American Family, including Trevor Donovan, Jen Lilley, Jessica Lowndes, Jesse Metcalfe, Danica McKellar, Debbie Matenopoulos, Cameron Mathison and Lori Loughlin. In April 2022, the network announced that Candace Cameron Bure, who had a long-standing relationship with Hallmark for more than a decade, was joining the network as chief creative officer to help create, produce and star in faith-filled content.
“The truth is I’ve been under contract with Hallmark for a very, very long time. And those have been absolutely wonderful. It just so happened that my contract was expiring when Great American Family started up,” she told Variety about the decision. “We did not start having those discussions until we were well into negotiations with Hallmark Channel for renewing. And as every business person knows, you’ve got to do what’s right for contracts. It didn’t work out with Hallmark and so we started talking to Bill.”
GAF has faced a bit of controversy since. In November 2022, Bure told WSJ that the channel had no plans to air films centered around same-sex couples and instead will focus on “traditional marriage.” At the time, Abbott added, “It’s certainly the year 2022, so we’re aware of the trends. There’s no whiteboard that says, ‘Yes, this’ or ‘No, we’ll never go here.'”
As for whether the channel will feature on any non-Christian holiday movies, Bure told Variety, “I’m sure as the channel continues to build content, it will include other holidays, but I think we know the core audience and what they love is exactly how Bill originally built the Hallmark Channel and that was Christmas and those traditional holidays and so that’s what the focus is going to be. You got to start somewhere.”
Many actors spoke out following Bure’s remarks. Neal Bledsoe, who has starred in two films for GAF, exclusively shared with Variety that he is distancing himself from the network and standing with the LGBTQIA+ community.
Great American Family is distributed by Cox, Dish, Frontier, Mediacom, Optimum, Spectrum, U-verse, Fios, and Xfinity and is in more than 50 million homes. To watch Great American Family, viewers can text CHRISTMAS to 877-999-1225.
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