Now that home-and-garden diva Martha Stewart finally has been indicted by the Securities and Exchange Commission and has stepped down as chairman of the company she founded, the question remains: What happens to her syndicated TV show?
Distributor King World declines to comment, but show has been declining in ratings all year. After the May sweeps, Martha Stewart Living
rated a 1.1 in households, down 21% from a year ago. King World already has sold in more than 87% of the country talk/variety strip Living It Up! With Ali & Jack, starring Alexandra Wentworth and Jack Ford, which will replace Martha Stewart Living
in many markets this fall.
Stations are under contract to air Stewart's show through next summer, but that contract does not preclude their moving it to late night or other less prominent time periods. Martha Stewart Living
is cleared in the majority of the country for its 11th season, but it's unclear whether it will continue if Stewart is embroiled in a high-profile trial or, worse, serving a prison sentence.
Advertisers had already started pulling out of the show. Chrysler dropped it last January, although the car manufacturer said its choice not to renew its contract had nothing to do with Stewart's legal problems.
Stewart was indicted last week on charges of securities fraud and obstruction of justice related to her selling 4,000 shares of biotech company ImClone Systems Inc. stock after her Merrill Lynch broker, Peter Bacanovic, allegedly gave her insider advice and then helped her keep the SEC in the dark after it began investigating the trade.
Stewart resigned from her posts as chairman and CEO at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. last week. In addition to civil monetary penalties, the SEC wants to bar her from the board of any public company and to limit her activities as an officer.
Stewart pleaded not guilty last week and took out a $73,000 ad in USA Today proclaiming her innocence. She also has set up a Web site: www.marthatalks.com, complete with an e-mail address.