Universal Networks International has today confirmed plans to rebrand the Hallmark Channel as the Universal Channel in the UK.

On October 18, the pay-TV channel and its high definition variant will become the Universal Channel and the Universal Channel HD on Sky and Virgin Media. The Hallmark Channel +1 will also take on the new branding.

To celebrate its launch, the Universal Channel will give UK premieres to cop show Rookie Blue and legal drama Facing Kate in the autumn/winter season. It will also air Shattered, which stars 24's Callum Keith Rennie as a homicide detective suffering from multiple personality disorder.

"The Hallmark Channel has a loyal audience in the pay-TV market and already offers a strong lineup of great content including the Law & Order franchise of shows," said Laurence Dawkin-Jones, Universal Networks International UK managing director.

"This rebrand will allow us to enhance the channel by adding fresh, new content to the best of the existing lineup of series under a channel name that is instantly recognisable, has an exceptional global heritage and feels very contemporary. We know it will appeal to both our existing fan base and a whole new audience who may not have previously been familiar with the Hallmark Channel brand."

Sky's director of channels and operations Rob Webster said: "Sky has enjoyed a distribution relationship with the Hallmark Channel dating back over many years.

"The channel occupies a distinctive place in UK pay-TV and we believe this will only be enhanced through rebranding as the Universal Channel. With fresh impetus and wider appeal, this is good news for Sky customers."

Virgin Media executive director digital entertainment Cindy Rose added: "We are confident the rebrand will prove successful in attracting new viewers to the channel, whilst maintaining the loyal Hallmark audience."

The rebranding of Hallmark is part of NBC Universal's ongoing multi-million dollar plan to reposition its global network of pay-TV channels around five core brands - Syfy Universal, Studio Universal, Diva Universal, 13th Street Universal and the Universal Channel.

Roma Khanna, Universal Networks International president of digital initiatives, said: "The Universal Channel is the flagship brand in our core channel portfolio and we are delighted to bring it to such an important market as the UK.

"This move is part of our strategy to deliver strong, exclusive subscription channels with world-class content to audiences around the globe."

Source: Digitalspy