Stewart Show to Sell Its Own Ads

Mar 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In an unusual move for an independent producer of syndicated strips, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia will sell all the advertising spots in its upcoming daytime show, to be hosted by Martha Stewart. The company is looking to hire advertising executives in New York and Chicago.

NBC Universal Television Distribution has cleared the show in 90 percent of the country. But in a break from convention for a high-profile Monday-through-Friday show, NBCU won’t handle the day-to-day advertising sales. That will be handled by MSO, which has longtime experience selling advertising packages across all kinds of media, including its big consumer magazines.

“The name Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia speaks volumes in doing cross-platform deals,” said Heidi Diamond, president of television for MSO. The company will look to package ad deals for its new TV show with its print magazines and other media.

Selling syndication isn’t new for the company. It sold all the advertising time for Ms. Stewart’s previous syndicated morning home crafts show, “Martha Stewart Living,” in the 1990s. CBS’s then syndication distribution arm, Eyemark Entertainment, was the show’s distributor.

The new show is a more ambitious affair aimed to take on bigger afternoon talk shows. It is targeting some $15 million to $20 million in annual advertising sales, according to media agency executives, which is average for a syndicated daytime talk show.

Though the advertising team isn’t in place, Ms. Diamond has already made a number of sales calls to advertisers and agencies, including multiple presentations during Starcom MediaVest Group’s Syndication Day conference recently in Chicago.

A new TV advertising staff at MSO will also sell ad opportunities in the company’s other shows, including the syndicated weekly show now in its second season called “Petkeeping With Marc Morrone,” which is distributed by Tribune Entertainment. This January, MSO launched a food show on PBS called “Everyday Food,” which has a number of sponsors, including Glad Press’n Seal, Chrysler’s Town & Country, Pam No-Stick Cooking Spray and winery Trinity Oaks.

Though MSO had experience selling TV shows in the past, media executives say the advertising market is tougher than when Martha Stewart last had a syndicated show. They wonder how successful MSO can be in selling a big daytime program without the benefit of a full roster of other syndicated fare companies such as NBC Universal, Paramount Advertiser Sales and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution have.

For a typical big-time first-run syndicated deal with a major studio, NBC Universal, for example, would get to distribute the show and sell the advertising time. “You are losing the advertising leverage that NBC Universal would have for Martha to gain more advertising sales,” said one veteran media-buying executive.

Typically, TV sellers bundle packages of shows to advertisers, mixing high- and low-priced programs offering a blended-and lower cost-per-thousand-viewer price. Big media companies, with a full roster of syndicated shows, can also offer make-good inventory if a show doesn’t perform up to its ratings guarantees.

Martha won’t be selling all advertising opportunities in the show. Mark Burnett Productions, which is executive producing the show with MSO, will help strike product integration content deals. Mark Burnett is known for highly visible advertiser product deals that have been part of the content of shows such as “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.” Big multimillion-dollar product integration fees help lower TV production costs.

Unlike prime-time shows, where many popular mass consumer products such as Dove soap and Burger King and Pepsi have been used as content fodder, Martha Stewart’s products used in her shows have had a more limited and upscale consumer appeal. That could curb potential branded entertainment opportunities for the show.

“I don’t think she’ll compromise her tastes,” said Fred Dubin, managing partner of entertainment marketing and promotions for Mediaedge:cia.

Ms. Stewart’s new show will have a busy look to it, Ms. Diamond said. Ms. Stewart, for instance, may be cooking on one part of the stage, while with help from her staff other craft activities might occur on another part of the stage.

“It’s just a way people live,” Ms. Diamond said. “You might be making dinner, and, at the same time, helping your kids with a project.” Celebrities will be part of the show as well.

Ms. Diamond said a recent meeting with Martha Stewart yielded a number of ideas. Soon, Ms. Diamond said, the program will announce the show’s name, the showrunner and a studio location.