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More ad time for ‘Martha’

Demand for advertising spots has outpaced supply

Starting in the fall, TV stations won’t be paying cash anymore for the daily syndicated hour hosted by Martha Stewart, but they’ll be giving the domestic goddess something even more valuable: Additional time to sell to advertisers.

“The advertising time on ‘Martha’ sold out quickly this season because the demand for spots has outpaced the commercial inventory,” said Sheraton Kalouria, president of TV for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

The show’s current contracts call for the stations to pay a cash license fee and keep 11 of the 15 commercial minutes in each hour, giving the four others to MSLO.

Under the new terms for the 2007-08 season beginning in September, the cash payments from stations will vanish, but they’ll turn over 3½ more minutes to MSLO, giving the two parties an even 7½/7½ split.

TV stations aren’t balking at the new contract, said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz TV, which represents hundreds of TV stations,. Not only will the stations save some cash, he said, but they’re harvesting only modest revenues from local daytime spots. Stations sell these spots in bulk as part of a big rotation covering syndicated programming throughout their entire daytime schedules (9 a.m.-4 p.m.).

Kalouria said the extra time in each “Martha” hour will prove a boon to MSLO because the company will sell these spots in tandem with banner ads on the MSLO Web site, commercials on the Stewart radio program on Sirius and pages in the company’s print magazines.

The ratings of “The Martha Stewart Show” — now in its second season and distributed by NBC Universal Domestic TV — have fallen by 18% in Nielsen households season-to-date compared with the same period last year (September to November).

But that drop requires an asterisk: In 2005, Stewart was coming out of prison and riding a wave of publicity that also got her a primetime series on NBC, her own version of Donald Trump’s “Apprentice,” which didn’t last beyond the 2005-06 season.

The good news for Stewart in syndication this year is that, despite the inflated ratings in 2005, this season’s “Martha” is actually up by 14% season-to-date in women 25-54, the demographic target of the series, compared to that of last year. The show is flat in the women 18-49 demo year-to-year, but is showing a 25% gain among women 18-34.