Martha Stewart’s Pet Project

Apr 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

“Don’t you poop on my jacket,” Martha Stewart said to Harry the scarlet macaw as he clambered onto her right shoulder during a press conference to announce a first for her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia brand-the creation of a property built around someone who isn’t Martha Stewart.

The doyenne of domesticity then introduced Harry’s owner, Marc Morrone, the Long Island, N.Y., pet shop owner whom she discovered on a local-interest channel on Cablevision.

Their relationship began with appearances by Mr. Morrone on her show over the past five years. She said she received such positive feedback that she decided to partner with Hearst Entertainment, which had been distributing The Pet Shop With Marc Morrone for two years.

Starting this fall the weekly half-hour will be retitled Petkeeping With Marc Morrone. It will now feature his appearances on Martha Stewart Living as well as some new content. It will be a barter show with 31/2 minutes each of national and local time and is cleared on some 130 stations-the “anchor” group is the Fox owned-and-operated stations-representing 90 percent of the U.S. TV universe.

Mr. Morrone will get his own Web site, a column in Ms. Stewart’s Kids magazine and Petkeeping-inspired merchandise. He expects to eventually syndicate a radio show and a newspaper column.

“Every dog needs a toothbrush,” said Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia President and Chief Operating Officer Sharon Patrick, who reeled off figures that defined the audience Petkeeping targets: the 62 percent of U.S. households that include pets. He said most keepers (Mr. Morrone doesn’t approve of the ownership concept) have more than one pet and spend an average of $460 a year on their animals. That makes pet-related spending a $29.5 billion a year business.

Rob Corona, senior VP of domestic sales for Hearst Entertainment, calls it “FCC-friendly programming.” That means it may qualify as the kind of educational and informational programming that stations are required to run for a portion of each week.

Among the “co-stars” at the press conference was Flash, a ferret who managed to upstage Harry frequently (his back end is as lovable as his front); the equally adrenalized kitten (named Kitty); a 13-pound rabbit named Harvey; three dogs (the pug sat up straight when the TV lights came on); two prairie dogs; an agouti (think way-overgrown guinea pig) named Prunella, and two of the four chinchillas known as the Three Musketeers.