Martha Trades First-Run Syndie for Hallmark

In a surprise announcement, hostess extraordinaire Martha Stewart will take her long-running, but low-rated NBC Universal daytime talk show out of first-run syndication in favor of feel-good cable net The Hallmark Channel. 

The move goes into effect in September
“As we make this move to Hallmark Channel, we also want to thank NBC Universal Domestic Television and their affiliates for their support over the past five years,” said Stewart in a prepared statement.  “We are proud of all that we have accomplished together.”
The agreement between Martha Stewart Living Enterprises and Hallmark Channel will include the development of new first-run series and prime-time specials pegged to Martha’s wide array of lifestyle knowledge.  Stewart’s talk show, which will remain in production from her New York studio, will air on Hallmark Channel weekdays from 10-11 a.m., kicking off a two-and-a-half hour block of Martha Stewart-themed programming.  An encore of the flagship talker will air later in the day.

“It has long been a dream of mine to bring our unique evergreen content to television in an expansive way. I am delighted that we have found the perfect home for the kind of programming that consumers look to us for, a home that is devoted to excellence, family life and celebrations – what we call Living,” said Stewart. “Our core values and content areas — entertaining, weddings, crafting, cooking, gardening, holidays, pets and humor — are a perfect fit with Hallmark Channel.”
The upcoming absence of Stewart will, of course, open an hour of real estate in daytime.

One distributor actively looking to book their show is Meredith Corporation, home of women’s driven lifestyle hour Better, hosted by Audra Lowe.  Other candidates will naturally include the array of available court, game and other talkers. 

But before anyone gets too teary-eyed about the pending absence of Stewart in first-run, keep in mind that the daily hour ranks dead-last among the 14 current syndicated talkers.  Season to-date (though Jan. 10, 2010), the show is averaging a 0.6 rating in households — down 14 percent from one year earlier, according to Nielsen Media Research data. 

Results among key women 25-54 (0.4) are off by 20 percent. From a ratings perspective, that is not “a good thing.”