So far, at least, it's not a good thing. "The Martha Stewart Show" coughed up dismal ratings in its debut on the Hallmark Channel, this week, casting fresh doubt on the wisdom of Stewart's decision to move the formerly syndicated program to cable TV. Only 199,000 people watched Monday's 10 a.m. episode, less than half the audience that tuned into Hallmark for the "Golden Girls" reruns that ran in the same slot a year ago. Can Stewart rebound? (Watch a promo for the show)
What a flop: Monday's ratings were a "rude awakening" for Stewart, says Michael Starr at the New York Post. No doubt, she expected her fans to follow her anywhere, but — more bad news — afternoon repeats of that first show snagged Hallmark only a third of the viewers that reruns of "Little House on the Prairie" pulled in the same time-slots last year. Other celebrities switching to cable, including Oprah Winfrey (whose new channel launches in January), should consider this "food for thought."
Stewart doesn't need ratings to succeed: Stewart knew cable would yield a smaller audience, says Julia Boorstin at CNBC. But this deal is still a win-win — Hallmark gets premium programming to make it more competitive, and Martha gets a bigger chunk of ad revenues, which means she can make more money with a smaller audience. Besides, "viewers don't distinguish between broadcast and cable when they're channel surfing." Martha's old audience will find her, eventually.
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Hallmark needn't worry, either: Hallmark will be glad it "hitched its wagon to the Martha Stewart brand," says Theresa Walsh Giarrusso at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As a sitcom-rerun channel, it had no "identity." Now women will be setting their DVRs for a daily block of Stewart-produced programming (of which her own show is just part) including "Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer" — whose hosts are a hit on Sirius radio — and "Everyday Food."
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