The annual Kitten Bowl has found a new home with a new network. GAC Family announced that it would take over the event, which has aired on Hallmark Channel for the past eight years.
Renamed the Great American Rescue Bowl, the event will premiere on GAC Family in 2023.
“The plight of animal homelessness continues to be pervasive throughout the country, so being able to televise a proven difference maker in helping pets find their forever homes was an easy decision,” said GAC Media CEO Bill Abbott in a statement to Variety. “We’re incredibly proud to welcome ‘Great American Rescue Bowl’ to GAC Family and are excited about this massive, fan-favorite event being an annual anchor to the network’s pet-centric programming.”
Hallmark Channel stunned fans when it announced that it would not sponsor the Kitten Bowl this year. The event, which ran the same day as the Super Bowl, featured animals up for adoption playing on a set designed to look like a football stadium.
Run with the help of the North Shore Animal League, the event highlighted the need for animal adoption. Shelters around the country hosted their own version of the event to encourage people to get involved.
When a fan asked Hallmark Channel about the event on Facebook, the network responded with the following statement, “While we are not currently developing original animal-centric programming, Hallmark Channel is pleased to support partners like North Shore Animal League America as part of our commitment to social responsibility initiatives.”
The North Shore Animal League confirmed the news in a statement to Variety.
“Hallmark Channel made the decision not to move forward with Kitten Bowl this year and, while we miss working on this lifesaving program with them, we are grateful for their recent donation of $25,000 for #BettyWhiteChallenge and hopeful that Kitten Bowl will return in the future,” said Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at North Shore Animal League America.
Fans were upset when Hallmark said it wouldn’t host the event. Some pointed out on social media that the network had canceled several programs in the past year.
The series Good Witch aired for the last time in July 2021. The show Home and Family finished in August 2021. Crown Media, which runs Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, also canceled three of its mystery series in the past year.
“Everything good is being destroyed or cancelled, even the sweet animals,” wrote one viewer on Twitter. “Goodness. HMC has lost its compassion. How they have treated their most loyal fans this past year is very telling. They seem to only care about ratings but doing little to earn them.”
Old CEO, new network
Abbott was the CEO at Crown Media — the company that runs Hallmark Channel — for 11 years. He left in early 2020. In June of 2021, he announced he was starting two new networks, GAC Family and GAC Living, devoted to “family-friendly entertainment.”
When news broke about Hallmark’s decision to cancel the event, Abbott responded immediately on social media.
“Kitten Bowl was a passion project that everyone involved will always be deeply proud to have been a part of,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “Grateful we were able to find fur-ever homes for so many. Please continue to support Animal League in their mission to find all these animals loving homes. #GetYourRescueOn and #adopt a furry friend!”
The Kitten Bowl will premiere on GAC Family in 2023.