Let’s face it. You love Christmas-themed programming, or any content of a holiday nature. We all do. There is just something very special about revisiting some of your favorite classics from yesteryear including…deep breath…“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” (the precursor to long-running CBS drama “The Waltons”) and, of course, 1946 theatrical “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The list is endless.
“With all the negative news surrounding us each day, family programming offers people a world which reminds us of happy memories spent with those we love as well as a reflection of values we hold dear in our hearts,” noted Billie Gold, VP Director of Programming Research at Amplifi US. “Of course, gory dramas such as ‘The Walking Dead’ are still huge draws, but there is a piece of us that’s nourished by the positive messages family based programming offers.”
That leads us to UP TV, rated the #1 Trusted Network according to E-Score Brand.*
Celebrating eight years as a primary holiday programming destination, UP is a growing reflection of early cable network The Family Channel with its “25 Days of Christmas” franchise. The event was first held in 1996 and quickly morphed into an annual fixture of the channel through its various incarnations, including as Fox Family Channel, ABC Family and, now, Freeform.
When something works, the path opens for others to capitalize on that formula. So, for a network like UP, which prides itself on offering feel-good entertainment for individuals and their families, over 500 hours of entertainment themed to this current holiday season (including seven original movies) is no surprise. It’s a welcome alternative and, now, a must see destination. But there is also one notable difference.
Holiday Programming That Both Inspires and Entertains
“What sets us apart each holiday season is the perception and depth to our movies,” noted Amy Winter, EVP and General Manager at UP. “We have plenty of the romance of the season in them, but what we try to do is develop movies that bring out the true meaning of Christmas. There is just a bit more ‘meat on the bones’ in feeling like we bring through some really inspirational stories for our audience.”
“UP is an important creator of new Christmas TV movies every year,” noted Joanna Wilson, author of four books on Christmas entertainment: “Triple Dog Dare: Watching & Surviving the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story;” “Merry Musical Christmas, Volume One: The Best Christmas Music in TV Sitcoms & Dramas;” “Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes and Specials and Made-for-TV Movies;” and “The Christmas TV Companion, a Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials, and Outrageous Oddities.” “Each of the networks sort of have their own spin and style in the original Christmas TV movies. Hallmark, at present, is still the most known, but I would put UP next.”
“UP’s movies have more family-centric stories, which is a definite benefit,” added Wilson. “Hallmark does a bit more romance; their demographic is more middle-aged women. UP will have children characters; they will have families. And I think that gives them a broader appeal.”
The seven new holiday movies on UP this season are “Second Chance Christmas,” “A Very Country Christmas,” “Christmas Calendar,” “Christmas Solo,” “12 Days of Giving,” “Christmas Princess” (premiering on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. ET) and “Winter Wedding” (premiering on Christmas Day, also at 7 p.m. ET). And, if early audience stats are any indication, this will be a record rated holiday season for UP (which, of course, offers a solid promotional foundation for the network’s regularly scheduled programming fare).
UP’s collection of Christmas movies this season (through Nov. 26) have already surpassed 16 million viewers, according to the Nielsen Live+7 blended data. And the second annual “Gilmore the Merrier” Thanksgiving stunt, featuring a marathon of every episode of classic dramedy, “Gilmore Girls,” reached 6 million viewers during Thanksgiving week. The stunt combined with UP Premiere Movies led to the network’s most-watched week in 2017 and its strongest week ever in adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.**
“People want an escape, they want a diversion and because we are not solely focused on romantic movies there is a lot content for the family to consume together,” noted Winter. “I also think this makes us more of a destination for advertisers.”
This Christmas, UP has attracted 25 new advertisers to its programming schedule. One of the largest new sponsors is Balsam Hill, which makes quality Christmas trees, Christmas decorations and home décor. Balsam Hill was a visible presence at the aforementioned “Gilmore the Merrier” marathon.
“Family definitely matters, particularly during this often tumultuous times, and UP is a safe haven for any advertiser,” noted Robert Russo, President of RNR Consulting. “Suddenly it feels more ‘cool’ to be focused on core values, particularly during the holiday season. And I think UP’s influence is increasing throughout the entire year.”
Coming Up at UP TV
“We are excited to premiere the series ‘Expecting,’ which is a remarkable way to tell a story about one of life’s biggest moments,” said Winter. “All of the footage in this groundbreaking series is self-shot by the couples that are going through pregnancy and having children, and we have seen some truly memorable stories.”
“Expecting” premieres on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 9:30 p.m. ET out of the second episode of the new season of established docuseries “Bringing Up Bates.”
“Bringing Up Bates,” centered on Gil and Kelly Jo Bates and their 19 children, has been a staple on UP for the last three years. The new season will highlight Tori Bates’ engagement and upcoming wedding to Bobby Smith, as well as more courtships and babies for the Bates family. Additionally, UP is increasing their family fare with “Meow Manor,” a reality spoof about a family of kittens living together in a house that the whole family (and pets!) will love.
“We noticed that there was a feed out of Iceland that was going viral featuring cats in a mini-mansion a la the ‘Big Brother’ house with cameras on 24/7 as the cats run around and create havoc in this house,” noted Winter. “On Christmas morning we are going to stunt ‘Meow Manor’ and feature a Christmas tree, ornaments, tinsel, bows, boxes and wrapping paper; all sorts of things for our kittens to have a good time with.”
With a continued emphasis outside of linear television, “Meow Manor” is also available via a 24/7 live stream with multi-camera views on UPtv.com.
In the original movie department is “Runaway Romance,” which follows Ann, a reality TV star who leaves the glitz and glamour of show business and finds herself in Amish territory, after her car breaks down. When Ann is taken in by the owner of a nearby inn, and meets a handsome young architect, she discovers that the reality she left isn’t nearly as perfect as the one she’s found. It premieres on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. ET.
“UP’s promise to bring you feel-good content that you can trust and share has always been something that is top of mind,” said Winter. “We just want to make sure that people understand that UP is just as entertaining as anything else out there. People can come here and have a wonderfully good time and feel great during the time they are spending here as well.”
“Comfort, tradition, integrity, love, faith and belief and miracles; these are very common and consistent themes in Christmas entertainment,” added Joanna Wilson. “And I think UP has them all.”
*Source: E-Score Brand; P13+; & trustworthy, UP rank among those aware vs. cable nets fielded – 1/1/17-11/28/17
**1) Nielsen, L7 blended, P2+ reach, 11/3-12/3/17, All Movies tc
2) Nielsen, L7 blended, P2+ reach; 11/20-26/17, Gilmore the Merrier
3) Nielsen, LSD, AA(000); week ever records since 4Q10