Abbott turned heads in January 2020 when his exit as the CEO of Crown Media Family Networks (Hallmark’s parent company) was announced after 11 years in the role and two decades with the group. His step down came after the company received backlash in December 2019 over how it handled a commercial featuring a same-sex couple.
At the time, Hallmark pulled a Zola.com ad that showed two women exchanging vows and sharing a kiss on their wedding day once a conservative group claimed the commercial was not “family-friendly.” The choice to drop the ad caused even more controversy from viewers, alleging Hallmark Channel had a lack of diversity and LGBTQ+ story lines, a criticism that Abbott claimed “wasn’t fair” while speaking to The Hollywood Reporter a month before the commercial controversy.
The cable channel eventually changed their tune and put the clip back on the network and Hallmark issued an apology. The following month president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. announced that Abbott was moving on, saying in a statement, they “wish him continued success.”
In wasn’t long before Abbott was back on his feet. He acquired GAC, originally called Great American Country, in June 2021. The network’s two channels, GAC Family and GAC Living, launched three months later and quickly began giving Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries a run for their money.
“We want to be the leader and family television,” Abbott said on a March episode of the “Up Next with John Contratti” of his new empire. “We think that we’ve assembled a terrific team, not only at our networks, but also on the talent side; people who are well known to the audience and the audience loves.”
Hallmark staples Danica McKellar and Jen Lilley were among the first stars to make the switch to GAC Media, helping to create wholesome content for the channels. The “Queen of Christmas” herself Candace Cameron Bure joined GAC Media in April, vowing in a statement to “develop heartwarming family and faith-filled programming and make the kind of stories my family and I love to watch.”
The following month, GAC Media announced it is going digital with the creation of the Great American Community app. The virtual experience will launch in September 2022 and connect the network’s talent with viewers, including a lifestyle hub with former Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family hosts Debbie Matenopoulus and Cameron Mathison as contributors.
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