New pet project for Martha Stewart Living

Morrone-hosted show will air this September

Martha is switching from housekeeping to housebreaking. This fall Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is launching a new pet show, which, unlike the company’s flagship program, “Martha Stewart Living,” showcases someone other than its scandal-ridden CEO.

“Petkeeping With Marc Morrone,” which will air this September in more than 130 TV markets and is being distributed by Hearst Entertainment, will be hosted instead by Morrone, a fresh-faced Long Islander who has a talent for keeping a squirming entourage that includes a chinchilla, puppies, a bearded dragon and a ferret more or less under control.

At a launch event with Morrone and his animals this week, Stewart lauded the pet expert for his ability to “control chaos.” A very self-controlled Stewart also spoke about expanding the MSO brand, losing her composure only once when Harry, a scarlet macaw, landed on her shoulder. “Don’t you dare poop on my jacket!” Stewart instructed.

Morrone’s show, “The Pet Shop,” airs on Cablevision.

Last quarter marked the first-ever quarterly loss for Stewart’s company, attributed to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation of Stewart for securities violations and possible insider trading relating to the sale of shares of biotech company ImClone in December 2001.

Stewart has denied wrongdoing.

Results for the first quarter of 2003 will be announced on April 30, but company executives have said that until the scandal is cleared, the business will “face challenges.”

Ad pages dip 28%

Advertising pages for the magazine “Martha Stewart Living” were down 28% to 107 last month compared with March 2001.

On the TV side, despite losses in revenue last quarter, and talk that Stewart’s TV show might not be renewed, King World, which distribs “Martha Stewart Living,” announced in December that the program was still on for this fall.

For the time being, however, brand expansion that underplays Stewart’s signature blond hair and steely grin seems to be the strategy at MSO. The magazine “Everyday Food,” which is in its test launch face, noticeablyminimizes Martha’s name.

The company’s stock closed Wednesdayup 7.62% at $9.75.

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