Living Isn't Easy5/23/2004 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Put the baking tips on hold. Domestic diva Martha Stewart may be trading pies for prison; she gets sentenced June 17. Martha Stewart Living already knows its fate: Come September, production calls it quits. Yet despite its namesake's travails, King World Productions says it will consider distributing the lifestyle show again.
Producer Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) calls it a production hiatus while Stewart continues her legal battles over her conviction in federal court.
MSLO says it will continue to produce Petkeeping With Marc Morrone and speed up development of a new show, Everyday Food.
Pulling the plug on Martha will mean cutting about 40 staff positions and a $2 million charge on the books in the second quarter, the company reports. Some stations, it adds, have expressed interest in getting the show back "when available."
MSLO sells advertising in the show, and King World distributes it for a fee. Stewart herself sounded hopeful in a prepared statement: "I am deeply sorry that it has become necessary for the show to go on hiatus until my personal legal situation is resolved. I hope to resume our close collaboration just as soon as I am able to do so."
Since Stewart's conviction, many stations have pulled the show off the air, including King World corporate parent Viacom, whose station group owns 35 stations. The departure of the Viacom and other outlets from the lineup dropped distribution to 144 stations covering 61% of the country. The show had aired on 188 stations covering 90% of the U.S. Before Stewart's legal problems, MSL aired in the morning; since they started, the show was downgraded to late night in many markets.
In the week ended May 9, Martha Stewart Living averaged a 0.7 rating in households, down 36% from last year at this time. Most of that decline is attributed to the departure of the Viacom stations, which axed the program from the top three markets.
Is distributor King World game for another try?
"They've been a great partner," says a King World rep, "and we would certainly consider that."