Why Hallmark's Competitor Great American Family Is So Controversial

For years, the Hallmark Channel was the go-to for more conservatively-minded films and TV shows. That is, until Bill Abbott, the erstwhile CEO of the company behind the network, decided to stir the pot by launching a rival entity — Great American Media. However, competition isn't the only reason this newer family-friendly network has been mired in controversy.

From the very beginning, Abbott's January 2020 exit from Crown Media (now officially Hallmark Media) was a contentious one. News of his departure arrived weeks after he pulled an advertisement showcasing a same-sex couple from the Hallmark Channel. In the aftermath, sources told Deadline that there had been a lot of tension between Abbott and others at the network, many of whom were none too pleased with the ad's removal. Crown Media ultimately issued a statement apologizing for the snafu and reasserting a commitment to diversity. The following month, the company announced Abbott's departure following more than a decade of service. 

Abbott wasted no time diving back into the media fray, launching Great American Media in June 2021. In the time since, many former Hallmark stars have jumped ship to Great American Family, a channel under the company's umbrella. That, in itself, has been fairly controversial. After all, many of the stars, like Candace Cameron Bure, had been with the Hallmark Channel for years. On-screen talent aside, here's why Great American Family has already gained a reputation for being controversial.

Candace Cameron Bure followed Bill Abbott

While the list of Hallmark actors moving to Great American Media is growing, arguably the most controversial star to have done so is Candace Cameron Bure. Why so much chatter? For one, Cameron Bure had been with Hallmark for years, starring in many films for the network. As such, her decision to head to a competitor certainly came as a surprise. 

In the wake of her departure, Cameron Bure revealed in an interview with Variety that part of the reason for her move was an allegiance she had to Bill Abbott. In particular, she pointed out that he had welcomed her back to TV after she'd taken a decade-long hiatus to spend more time with her family. "That's why a move to Great American Family was a good move for me because of [my] long standing relationship with Bill," she explained. Cameron Bure also affirmed she'd only entered into discussions with Great American Family once her existing contract with Hallmark had concluded. 

Suffice it to say, Cameron Bure's move was a smart one career-wise. As noted by Great American Media, she was named the company's chief content officer in 2022. However, it was her comments in that new role that landed the actor in hot water. 

Candace's comments on traditional marriage drew ire

Arguably one of the biggest controversies that Great American Media has faced started with a comment by Candace Cameron Bure. The statement in question? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she said, "I think that Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core." Predictably, the reactions were fast and furious, with celebrities like JoJo Siwa and Hilarie Burton not mincing words about their dismay, taking her to task for sidelining non-heteronormative relationships with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

For what it's worth, Cameron Bure has blasted cancel culture and claims her comments were taken out of context. In a statement obtained by ET in response to the backlash, Cameron Bure said, "I had also expressed in my interview, which was not included, that people of all ethnicities and identities have and will continue to contribute to the network in great ways both in front of and behind the camera, which I encourage and fully support." 

Regarding the company's official stance, Bill Abbott told Variety almost a year later that Cameron Bure's remarks were purely personal musings, and shouldn't be taken as the company's policy. Nevertheless, the CEO said that they would think about incorporating LGBTQ+ programming at some point.

Their company's racial diversity is questionable

Another hot topic Great American Media is grappling with is its noticeable shortfall in racial diversity across its programming. As Variety highlighted during their chat with Bill Abbott, only one movie in their 2023 Christmas lineup consisting of 20 films featured Black lead characters – "12 Games of Christmas."

Speaking to the overt lack of diversity, Abbott promised that the company would do better the following year. "We're going to look very different in 2024 than we did this year, and we'll look even more different in 2025," he assured the outlet. Despite Abbott's optimistic forecast and claims of progress, the numbers currently tell a less rosy story.

One of the company's attempts at bringing more diversity into Great American Media's content has been onboarding Mario Lopez in early 2024. The actor's first project, slated for the 2024 Christmas lineup, was highlighted in a press release where he expressed his excitement about crafting "uplifting, inclusive, and diverse content, viewed through a positive lens for all ages." Here's hoping this is just the start of some big changes. Perhaps one day Great American Media won't be considered quite as controversial — but there's certainly a way to go.