LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Oprah Winfrey isn't the only media mogul making the move from syndication to cable: Martha Stewart's eponymous daytime talk show will migrate this September to Crown Media's Hallmark Channel after five years in syndication.
Hallmark will follow her hourlong show every weekday with another hour and a half of original programming from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which will also develop holiday and interview specials for Hallmark's prime-time schedule.
Moving "The Martha Stewart Show" from syndication to a single cable channel is an upgrade in line with the company's moves in retail, said Charles Koppelman, executive chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The company has recently ended its relationship with Kmart and struck new deals with Macy's, Home Depot, PetSmart and Michaels. "Once that was completed, our next focus was to reinvigorate and find media partners that would be as important as our retail partners and upgrade our media landscape," Mr. Koppelman told Ad Age.
"The Martha Stewart Show" has declined to become a middle-tier presence on daytime TV, averaging less than a million viewers an episode, or a third of the audiences who regularly tune into top-tier talkers like "Dr. Phil" and "Ellen." During its debut season in 2005, the program averaged 1.9 million viewers.
For the Hallmark Channel, one of the last independent cable networks after several unsuccessful attempts at finding a buyer, securing brand-name talent seems increasingly crucial. Cable TV was one of the few media to grow in 2009, but the competitive landscape of both broad-based and niche cable channels has forced some networks to rebrand or overhaul completely. Scripps' Fine Living will become the Cooking Channel later this year, for example; Discovery is relaunching Discovery Kids in the fourth quarter as The Hub, a joint venture with Hasbro, and will swap out Discovery Health early next year for the Oprah Winfrey Network.
"We really wanted to be focused around lifestyle and decorating and home improvement and different points of view that celebrating life and life's special moments," said Hallmark Channel CEO Bill Abbott, who took the reins of the cable network in May after the departure of Henry Schleiff. "We looked at the landscape and potential product and saw we could do no better than Martha Stewart," he told Ad Age.
Hallmark Channel, currently distributed in 90 million homes, will air original episodes of "Martha" three times a day Monday through Friday, starting at 10 a.m. ET and again at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET. That extra afternoon exposure should help more viewers find the show and create additional opportunities for ad sales, Mr. Abbott said. "We feel within the context of the Hallmark brand, there are many more opportunities to offer those things that syndication can't -- day-date specific, targeted packages that make an advertiser stand out even more," he said.
Hallmark Channel will continue to invest in its own original programming, with 24 original movies slated for 2010.
Terms of the new deal were not disclosed. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's revenue share for "Martha Stewart" won't change much as it moves from syndication to Hallmark, said Mr. Koppelman, although he noted that the company won't have to pay a distribution fee as it does now with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. "Clearly this makes sense for all of us -- it's a bigger audience, better time periods and consistent, multiple runs," Mr. Koppelman said. "We think this will open the show up to a whole new group of advertisers."