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Martha, NBCU Strike Deal for New Syndicated Show

Dec 8, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, NBC Universal and reality-television king Mark Burnett on Wednesday said they have struck a deal under which lifestyle guru Martha Stewart will host an hour-long syndicated show to begin production next fall.

The series, whose name is yet to be determined, will feature Ms. Stewart in front of a live audience and has already been sold to NBC’s owned-and-operated stations, which cover around 30 percent of the country.

News of the television show deal sent MSO shares up nearly 7 percent to close Wednesday at $24.43.

The announcement of the deal comes as Ms. Stewart serves a five-month prison sentence in a women’s federal penitentiary in West Virginia. She is scheduled to be released in March and then must serve five months of home detention in connection with her conviction for lying to investigators about a stock sale.

“With or without the show, this is a comeback story,” said Mr. Burnett, whose reality show credits include “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.” He said the new show’s format will allow Ms. Stewart to connect with audience members.

Where in the schedule the show will air remains an open question. However, Jay Ireland, president of NBCU Television Stations, said he sees the new show as more of a morning program. In addition, officials at NBCU Television Distribution said there is strong interest in the program among affiliates.

Mr. Burnett, who has visited Ms. Stewart in prison once already and was planning to do so again next week, said he met with her in May to discuss the possibility of working together and then later met with NBCU Television Group President Jeff Zucker.

However, the deal struck to launch the show is between MSO, NBCU and Mr. Burnett’s production company, Mark Burnett Productions–a point the parties made clear Wednesday, since Ms. Stewart isn’t permitted to enter into any deals while in prison.