The Hallmark Channel executive who recently said that the company would be "open" to doing movies with gay characters and lead actors has resigned from his position.
Bill Abbott, the former CEO and president of Crown Media Family Networks — which encompasses the popular family-friendly Hallmark Channel — stepped down last Wednesday, according to a statement on the company website.
"After 11 years, Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media is leaving the company," Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. said. "I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success."
What's the background?
Abbott sparked controversy last holiday season when he indicated surprising openness to Christmas films featuring gay lead actors or including gay characters.
"I'm gay, where are the same-sex movies?" one of the interviewers asked Abbott in a podcast interview with The Hollywood Reporter last November. "Have you talked about incorporating stories about same-sex couples at Christmas?"
"We're open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship in any space," Abbott said in response.
Later that holiday season, Hallmark Channel sparked further controversy after a series of commercial advertisements that depicted a same-sex wedding were aired, then temporarily pulled, and then aired again.
Following the kerfuffle, Perry apologized for the company's decision to temporarily pull the ads and said he had been "agonizing" over it.
"The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we've seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused," Perry said. "Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused."
The nature of Abbott's involvement in the decisions to air and then temporarily pull the ads is unclear, however, as the head of the organization's media wing, it is reasonable to assume he was at the very least knowledgeable regarding the decision-making process.
Was that the reason he stepped down?
The statement regarding Abbott's resignation did not elaborate on why he parted ways with the company, or whether he was asked to step down.
Instead, Perry noted the need for producing "relevant" entertainment for a growing audience.
"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.