New home awaits Martha at NBC U

Stewart lands postprison TV deal with Burnett, Peacock

NEW YORK — Martha Stewart Living and NBC Universal on Wednesday announced the long-anticipated deal that will put her show back on television next fall in a new nationally syndicated series.

Hourlong show will be taped live before a studio audience, with Stewart hosting celebrity guests to help her unveil state of the art cooking, decorating, entertaining and all-purpose nest-feathering.

Skein will air in the 10 a.m. timeslot after “The Today Show” in most markets, but NBC execs held out the prospect that the show could move, taking on “Oprah” in the afternoon.

Producer Mark Burnett first began exploring syndie opportunities with Stewart last spring, holding a top-secret confab with Stewart months before she went to prison (Daily Variety, May 14).

“Martha is a proven winner across all media,” said NBC U TV Group prexy Jeff Zucker, adding that NBC’s affiliates have been clamoring for the show ever since news broke that she would re-create it with reality guru Mark Burnett.

Behind bars, the homemaking icon, in her third month of imprisonment, has apparently learned to use a microwave and even found a way to use the nuker to make flan for some of her Mexican cellmates.

“She’s doing great,” newly appointed MSLO topper Susan Lyne said. “But this gives her something to look forward to — something exciting that indicates the company is going to come back.”

“Based on the success of the show, you determine where it should be,” said NBC TV distribution exec VP Frederick Huntsberry. “There have been a million this-is-the-next-‘Oprah’s, but I don’t think this show should be saddled with that,” he added.

Both Burnett and Lyne have paid visits to Stewart at the women’s facility known as “Camp Cupcake” in Alderson, W. Va., and spoke openly of her ordeal — marking a change in the way they manage the public relations debacle. Both said Stewart is eager to discuss the experience on her show.

“You journalists love to tear people down, but then you like to build them back up, and we thank you for that,” Burnett said at a press conference at MSLO headquarters in Gotham.

Stewart, they said, is in fine spirits, throwing herself enthusiastically into jailhouse chores, making new friends and tutoring her cellmates on tricks of the trade.

Stewart, set to be released in March, was assigned to a cleaning crew and has taken to the task with aplomb. As part of her job, she cleans the “captain’s quarters” — the office of the prison administrator. “I’m sure it has never been cleaner,” Lyne said.

During one visit, Burnett said, Stewart instructed a group of inmates on how to properly clean a floor waxer with turpentine.

Lyne said the MSLO TV department is focusing on the Burnett show and the “Everyday Food” program on PBS, but that others were in development.

MSLO stock closed up nearly 7%, or $1.55, at $24.43 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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