Hallmark Channel wins cable TV rights to 'MASH' reruns

The Hallmark Channel, the network owned by Crown Media Inc., announced Monday that it had obtained exclusive cable TV rights to the ageless sitcom "MASH"

Industry reports say the multiyear deal with Crown Media, which is two-thirds owned by Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark Cards Inc., was worth at least $60 million � not bad for a show that signed off the air 19 years ago.

"MASH," which ran 11 seasons on CBS, will begin airing in fall 2003 on the Hallmark Channel. The show now airs up to eight times a day on the FX channel, (Sunflower Broadband Channel 67), which like Twentieth Century Television, the studio that produced "MASH," is owned by media giant News Corp.

The cable rights to all 255 episodes will not affect the show's syndication package with broadcast stations.

Only a few programs have stood the test of time and become classic TV shows. "MASH" occupies a unique place in that pantheon. Viewership eventually drops off sharply for nearly every off-network program, but "MASH" is an evergreen that just keeps pulling in viewers and making money.

David Kenin, executive vice president for Crown Media United States and Hallmark Channel's top programmer, said he was thrilled to win the rights to "MASH."

"This is a show that has enduring equalities, genuine moments, genuine characters," Kenin said Monday in a telephone interview.

"Somehow it continues to be relevant to new generations of audiences."

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