- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NEW YORK — Martha Stewart doesn’t quite have her own television network, like Oprah Winfrey, but the Hallmark Channel is giving the household style maven control over a chunk of its daytime lineup.

Miss Stewart’s weekday program, currently syndicated to various broadcast channels across the country, will move to the Hallmark Channel in September, the network and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. announced on Tuesday.

“The Martha Stewart Show,” starting its sixth season this fall, will air at 10 a.m. EST weekdays. The show will be rerun each day at 4 and 5 p.m., and Miss Stewart’s production company will be responsible for 90 minutes of additional programming that will air following the first run of her show.

Miss Stewart said the deal was in the works before Miss Winfrey announced in November that she will leave her syndicated show in 2011 to concentrate on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, her joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc.

“It just reinforced our desire to have a real home for our programming,” Miss Stewart said.

Through syndication deals, Miss Stewart is at the mercy of local stations, which air her program at different times across the country. The chance to have a uniform start time — three uniform start times, if you count the reruns — was particularly attractive, said Charles Koppelman, executive chairman of Martha Stewart Living.

Hallmark is available in nearly 90 million of the nation’s 115 million homes with television; Miss Stewart’s syndicated show now can be seen in about 10 million more homes.

For Hallmark, the deal offers the chance to establish itself as Miss Stewart’s home base and beef up a daytime programming schedule filled with old movies, “Golden Girls” reruns and Jack Hanna animal specials. It’s particularly important, given that many television networks essentially are giving up on spending much money on fresh daytime shows, said Bill Abbott, president and CEO of the Hallmark Channels.

“We see a choice opportunity to own this segment in the lifestyle area and in daytime,” he said.

Neither side would discuss the financial parameters of the deal.

Miss Stewart’s and Miss Winfrey’s deals do not necessarily mean television’s syndication model is breaking down, said Bill Carroll, researcher for Katz Television.

“I do not anticipate an exodus to cable of the successful shows on broadcast,” Mr. Carroll said. “It is still the primary way to reach the largest audience possible.”

The new programs will be in the same lifestyle, household hints and cooking areas in which Miss Stewart specializes. One possibility: “Whatever, Martha,” the series in which Miss Stewart’s daughter pokes fun at her mother, which has a deal with the Fine Living Network that expires in June.

It won’t be an exclusive deal, however. MSLO produces “Everyday Food” for PBS and is making a show with chef Emeril Lagasse for ION Television.

Miss Stewart also will make four one-hour prime-time specials for Hallmark. The corporate sister of the greeting-card company wants to establish itself as a destination for programs related to different holidays.

Miss Stewart’s company retains control of its backlog of old programming. She said she’s looking to be more aggressive making this old material available online.

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