Hallmark Channel Turns to ‘Little House’

While Michael Landon seems to be more popular on Hallmark Channel in the afternoon than Martha Stewart, the network’s chief said he’s committed to a long-term programming partnership with the domestic diva.

Early ratings returns from the
latest lineup adjustment to Hallmark’s
six-hour, Stewart-produced
daytime block indicate reruns
of 1970s drama Little House On
the Prairie airing from 4 p.m. to 6
p.m. has tripled the audience of repeats
of The Martha Stewart Show
on Hallmark.

In the first two days after Hallmark
took out the garden shears and
clipped two hours from the home
and garden queen’s six-hour daytime
block, Little House averaged
260,000 viewers, versus 96,000 for
same-day repeats of The Martha
Stewart Show at 5 p.m., according
to Nielsen. Stewart’s show started
on Hallmark on Sept. 13.

Further, the 4 p.m. episode of
Little House drew 304,000 viewers,
tripling the audience tuning
into repeats from the previous
day’s The Martha Stewart Show.

Hallmark Channels CEO Bill
Abbott acknowledged the afternoon
programming block had
suffered significant audience
losses, compared to the prior
lineup of such off -network shows
as The Golden Girls and M*A*S*H.

"We knew there would be
bumps along the way, and we
knew that we'd have to experiment
with different formulas to
make it work and to make it successful,"
Abbott said. "We felt
that consolidating the block to a
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time period that
was all-original, topical, highprofile
and current was advantageous
to our strategy and our
overall effort."

After a slow start, viewership
for The Martha Stewart Show hit
a high mark last week, proving
that viewers are getting used to
seeing the show on Hallmark,
Abbott said.

The hour-long daily show averaged
a high of 205,000 viewers
during the week of Oct. 4. On
Oct. 11 and 12, it was averaging
260,000, according to Nielsen.

“We feel that we’re definitely
headed in the right direction,”
he said. “We’re not going to be
judged by a four-week period,
which is how long we’ve been on
the air. We’ll be judged over the
long haul and we’re very confident
in where we’re headed.”

Hallmark re-ran the afternoon
block — including talk show
Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer
and culinary-themed Mad
Hungry with Lucinda Scala
Quinn — in primetime last
week to expose more viewers to
its afternoon lineup.

“We’re giving the programming
an additional window in
primetime to raise the level of
awareness and profile of Martha
and maybe attract a diff erent audience,”
Abbott said.

Oct. 1 saw the debut of Stewart’s
first primetime special for
Hallmark. Tricking and Treating
With Martha Stewart averaged
514,000 viewers, compared with
the 983,000 viewers the network
averaged in primetime during the
month of September.

Abbott said Hallmark and Stewart
are committed to their longterm
relationship and expect
audiences to continue to build as they become more aware of her
presence on the channel.

“Martha has been a great partner
and has been completely on
board with where we are and has
always been extremely supportive,
and that has not changed,” he
said. “We’re working on strategies
that will continue to let her enthusiasts
know where to find the
product and help us grow ratings.
It’s mutually beneficial to both of
us to continue to move forward
and take it to new levels.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.