This week Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia premieres a new season of its programming on the Hallmark Channel, marking the first anniversary of a unique arrangement. Stewart’s daily five-hour block on Hallmark is meant to be mutually beneficial. But the ratings haven’t been stellar (to that end, MSLO is partnering with CAA to find new talent to fill and energize the block). Adweek caught up with Geoffrey Darby, who took over as the new general manager of Martha Stewart on Hallmark this month, to discuss the partnership.
How did Martha Stewart recruit you?
[MSLO president] Lisa Gersh called me up and said, “Hey, we have this large opportunity over here at the Martha Stewart brand and with the television block. How do we really expand the Martha Stewart brand in television?” So that’s what I’m looking into.
On your way in, did you have the sense that the brand needed to be honed more?
It’s all about showcasing . . . and using that block on Hallmark to create and showcase new franchises. I don’t think that was the previous charge; that’s certainly our charge moving forward.
You’re doing this at around the same time that Oprah is taking a more central role in OWN. What do you think of that?
I think that’s positive for us.
Martha is on Hallmark today. [But] I think the more places we can put the Martha Stewart brand the better. Not just Martha, but the kind of programming that would fit directly with the brand. It’s better for us. OWN is more opportunity. What happens when you’ve filled five hours [on Hallmark]? Well then, OK, now let's go fill an hour somewhere else. And whether that somewhere else is on NBC or a syndicated property or on Oprah, that’s all good.
That’s interesting. Isn’t Oprah a competitor to Hallmark?
As a program maker, the more places we can put the Martha Stewart brand, the better it is. If I were sitting in Hallmark’s chair, I may say, “I don’t want Oprah around.” If I were sitting in Food Network’s chair, I don’t want Hallmark doing Martha Stewart. Same kind of thing. But I’m not sitting [in those chairs]. We’re a program maker, not a network.
So having a Martha Stewart go on Oprah’s network, for example, would ultimately drive traffic back to her block on Hallmark?
That’s it. We make television and product. And five hours is great, but I don’t consider Oprah to be a competitor except in the way that every outlet is a competitor, in the same way that two hours of The Today Show is a competitor. But we’re on The Today Show. Martha goes on The Today Show twice a month.
So what, exactly, is your relationship with Hallmark?
Hallmark is our partner in building that five-hour block of lifestyle programming. And also in taking the brand to other parts of their network with specials and other things that we’ve talked about. And they have a “first look” deal with us. But the brand goes beyond just the kind of lifestyle programming that we’re running on Hallmark. And that was one of the reasons we engaged CAA. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be on Hallmark. But if a program is better suited for prime time and they don’t have a slot for it, we then have the ability to take it elsewhere.