The president and chief executive of the Hallmark Channel, Bill Abbot is stepping down barely a month after the company faced controversy over a later-reversed decision to pull a commercial showing a same-sex couple getting married, The Hill reports.
The company announced Abbott’s resignation in a press release Tuesday.
“After 11 years, Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media is leaving the company,” said Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. “I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success.”
“I have tremendous confidence in the Crown Media management team and with this team in place, I will begin a search for Bill’s replacement,” Perry continued.
The press release did not provide a reason for Abbott’s resignation.
The news comes after the Hallmark Channel was caught up in controversy after pulling a commercial for the wedding-planning website Zola, featuring a lesbian couple’s wedding followed by a petition from some conservative groups that requested it be taken off the channel.
Perry later announced the reversal and called the initial move “the wrong decision.”
“We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused,” he said at the time.
the controversy occurred during Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas,” an annual programming block of Christmas-themed movies that air during the month of December. According to Hallmark and Nielsen data, the network averaged 1.7 million overall viewers during primetime hours between December 16-22.
“Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences,” Perry said at the time.
The Hallmark Channel, has seen explosive growth even as other traditional TV channels are losing viewers due to streaming services. In total viewers, the network ranks as the sixth most popular cable channel behind Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN, HGTV and USA Network, according to Nielsen ratings.
Alphonso David, president of the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign said in a statement that Abbott’s departure shows that “opposing equality isn’t just wrong, it’s bad for business.”
“Companies and their leaders must continue to provide visibility to LGBTQ people across the nation and speak out for equality,” David added.