The David Elstein Interview: Part 1 - Hallmark
Elstein, 60, is currently chairman of Sparrowhawk Media, owners of the Hallmark channel. Previously he launched Channel 5, worked for Sky as head of programming and held position as a senior editor at the BBC.
Today he speaks about the future of Hallmark, including new channel launches, the HD format and widescreen transmission.
Alan Jay: The Hallmark Channel regularly comes up in the Digital Spy forums as a popular choice to possibly become a part of Freeview. Any plans? Did you bid for the one that was up recently?
David Elstein: We're a pay service. We wouldn't go onto a free to air platform.
Alan Jay: Would you consider Top Up TV?
David Elstein: If Top Up had capacity for us and wanted us to join the platform, I'm sure we would, yes. No question.
Alan Jay: So you are only pay TV and you have no plans to do anything else?
David Elstein: Well, I wouldn't say that we would never launch free to air services. It's just that 50% of [Hallmark's] revenue is from subscription and that's locked into contractual agreements running for years, so there's no chance at all that we would.
Alan Jay:Do you plan on launching any additional channels on Sky? There was some talk in October that you were thinking of a second channel.
David Elstein: Yeah, it's well advanced. I would hope that a second Hallmark channel would be up and running latest April. Maybe before. Depends on launch slots on the Sky platform as you know. There are a lot of people working to launch on Sky as you know, Sky have their queue and you join the queue and you wait. I mean you could launch from a different satellite or you could wait for FreeeSat, but at the moment . . .
Alan Jay: Is that going to be a sort of a replay type channel?
David Elstein: No, it would be a complementary channel to Hallmark 1 so there would be a very small overlap of content, but for the most part it would be content that was only on the second channel.
Alan Jay: How important to you and Hallmark is hi-definition television?
David Elstein: It's a long way off for us as a broadcaster. It's not one of our current parameters. I mean it's certainly on the agenda. There's certainly content that we have that would be suitable for HD, but launching HD is for instance lower down the priority list than DSL or VOD or mobile applications. If it has commercial value we'll get around to it but it certainly doesn't have at the moment.
Alan Jay: On a similar note, how about widescreen, which a lot of your programming is shot in? One of our readers wrote that when you do your voiceover for Law and Order it says "unedited" but it's 4x3 and not 16x9 as it was originally broadcast.
David Elstein: That’s not editing! That's transmission format. You know, it's not saying movies are unedited and then saying that they were meant to be shown on the cinema screen. I mean it's not a very meaningful statement.
Alan Jay: You have no plans yet of changing . . .?
David Elstein: I don't think aspect ratios are, come under the heading of editing. They come onto the edit format so if we showed them in black and white and not in colour, would somebody say we had edited them? No.
Alan Jay: Or colour and not black and white.
David Elstein: Or colour and not black and white. Actually that does involve addition rather than edition.
Alan Jay: But from the channel's perspective, there are no plans to go 16x9.
David Elstein: Not that I am aware of anyway.
Tomorrow: David Elstein on why the licence fee should be scrapped