Martha Stewart plots move to Hallmark Channel, says it’s a good thing

Martha-stewart

Martha Stewart believes cable is a good thing for her lifestyle empire.

The Hallmark Channel has acquired the first-run rights to “The Martha Stewart Show,” which will exit syndication and become a daily, original cable strip this fall.

Hallmark will run “The Martha Stewart Show” at 10 a.m. weekdays. Then, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Hallmark will also run additional programming from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. 

“Martha Stewart” will also repeat at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the channel, and MSLO will additionally produce holiday and interview specials for Hallmark’s primetime schedule.

Stewart is no stranger to cable, as repackaged editions of her earlier syndicated series have aired on outlets such as Food Network and HGTV. More recently, repeats of “The Martha Stewart Show” have run on Fine Living (which also has run “Whatever, Martha,” a satirical look at Stewart that is co-hosted by her daughter).

But wholesale move comes as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s deal with NBC Universal TV Distribution was set to expire — and ratings for “The Martha Stewart Show” had dropped, making for a tougher go in syndication.

NBC U, which had distributed “The Martha Stewart Show” for the past five years, declined comment. 

NBC U is not involved in the Hallmark show; also no longer involved is Mark Burnett, who helped launch the revived “The Martha Stewart Show” after sealing a deal with Stewart in 2004, while she was still incarcerated.

Prior to Stewart’s prison stint, she was the star of a lifestyle strip syndicated by King World. 

Announcement was made on Tuesday by Hallmark Channels prexy/CEO Bill Abbott and MSLO executive chairman Charles Koppelman.

Abbott called the move a “match made in TV heaven.”

“About eight months ago, when we had executive changes at Hallmark, we looked at our networks, and asked ourselves, ‘How can we better attach ourselves to the Hallmark brand?” Abbott said. “We see great opportunity to own daytime and own the lifestyle area with Martha.”

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Abbott also told Variety that this will likely be the first step in evolving the Hallmark Channel into more of a lifestyle network. The exec said Hallmark could eventually move its movie properties to its Hallmark Movie Network, freeing up Hallmark to focus on “owning celebrations and occasions and holidays.”

“Strategically we could look to separate the channels going forward, and this sets us on our way,” he said.

Hallmark still plans to produce 24 original movies this year for the channel. 

In a statement, Stewart said she had been looking for a home to run MSLO’s “unique evergreen content to television in an expansive way.”

“Our core values and content areas –entertaining, weddings, crafting, cooking, gardening, holidays, pets and humor — are a perfect fit with Hallmark Channel,” she said.

Koppelman said the move came as MSLO began reviewing its partnerships. That included switching merchandising partners, moving from Kmart to Hope Depot, Macy’s, Pet Smart and Michael’s.

“Once we got that organized, next on our agenda was figuring out how to build and upgrade our media relationships,” he said. “And find the right partners to build out not just Martha Stewart, but other talent as well.”

Koppelman said MSLO also liked the idea of “Martha Stewart” airing in pattern across the country, and the fact that there’s room to grow more shows on Hallmark.

Deal is not exclusive, however, allowing MSLO to still produce for other nets. The company and Hallmark are also still identifying what properties will run on the cabler between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Among the titles that will soon be available is “Whatever, Martha,” which reverts to MSLO once Scripps turns Fine Living into the Cooking Channel later this year.

As for the split with Burnett — who also famously cast her as the star of “The Apprentice” spinoff “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” — MSLO’s Koppelman said, “Mark is very talented and we’ll be talking with him about opportunities down the road.”

Stewart becomes the latest host to exit syndication, as hosts such as Bonnie Hunt and Tyra Banks (whose show was technically cleared on the CW) end their runs this year, and Oprah Winfrey shuts down her show in 2011 to focus on her cable network.

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