Martha Stewart debuts to dismal ratings

394,000 tune in on Hallmark; beat by 'Golden Girls'

Martha Stewart is no match for Betty White.

Making its move to cable, "The Martha Stewart Show" attracted a cumulative average audience of 394,000 in its debut on the Hallmark Channel on Monday -- down more than 50% from the classic TV repeats that Hallmark aired in the same period last year.

The 10 a.m. broadcast of a new episode of the show reached an average of only 199,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data, down 61% from the 514,000 attracted by a year-ago airing of "Golden Girls."

The 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. replays of that episode attracted an average of 115,000 and 80,000 viewers, respectively. That was below the 346,000 and 344,000 recorded by Hallmark in the corresponding time frame last year with "Little House on the Prairie" and "M*A*S*H," or down 67% and 77%, respectively.

In the key female 25-54 demo that Hallmark wants to reach, viewers were down 56% to 48,000 in the 10am slot that aired the new episode of "Martha Stewart." The two replays were down 52% and 76% to 24,000 and 12,000, respectively, in that demo.

Though its difficult to make fair comparisons between syndication and basic cable, it’s accurate to say the Hallmark program pulled significantly fewer viewers. 

Starting this week, "Martha Stewart" is anchoring a daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. lifestyle programming block on Hallmark provided by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The block also includes "Mad Hungry With Lucinda Scala Quinn," executive food editor at MSLO, and "Whatever With Alexis and Jennifer" featuring Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt who host a show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

"Whatever" averaged 103,000 viewers aged two or older at 11 a.m. on Monday, according to the Nielsen data, followed by 123,000 for half-hour show "Mad Hungry" at noon. In the same periods a year ago on Hallmark, "Golden Girls" drew between 363,000 and 382,000 viewers depending on which half hour one looks at.

Other programming on Hallmark's new lifestyle programming block, programmed with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, also saw fewer viewers than the year-ago period.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia executive chairman Charles Koppelman told THR last week that the three daily airings of "Martha Stewart" should boost the show's cumulative daily reach for ad partners (HR 9/7). But he said Stewart fans may need some time to find the show after its move.

Similarly, Hallmark Channels president and CEO Bill Abbott cautioned back then that he expects no overnight success and that he was "planning for a few bumps in the road."

On Wednesday, he said: "While the initial ratings were admittedly softer than we anticipated for the debut of 'The Martha Stewart Show' on Hallmark Channel, we could not be more pleased with the quality and content of the program as it begins season six ... Audience migration takes time, especially when a dramatic change is in the mix, and as we have stated before, this is an evolution not a revolution."

He also said: "We remain completely confident that this partnership will be remarkably successful."

Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey's 25th season debut on Monday drew slightly better ratings than last year's season opener.

The final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in syndication before the talk star's move to cable scored a 6.8 household rating/17 share, up 3% from last year's start, which recorded a 6.6 household rating/16 share, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by CBS, which distributes the show. Total viewer numbers won't be available for seven days in this case.

"Oprah debuted ... as (the) No. 1 talk show by a large margin and was up vs. the season premiere last year," CBS said.