On Wednesday evening, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. ("MSO") reached agreement with reality television "superproducer" Mark Burnett regarding future television productions, including "the development and production of a primetime network television series to feature Martha Stewart." The agreement comes just a couple of days after Burnett publicly expressed interest in such a show.
According to a press release, the deal, which is actually structured as a consulting contract between an entity affiliated with Burnett (probably a to-be-formed LLC) and Martha Stewart Living Television, includes a substantial incentive for Burnett: a warrant to purchase up to 2,500,000 shares of MSO common stock at an exercise price of $12.59 per share.
Burnett's interests in the warrant will vest and become exercisable incrementally, as certain "milestones relating to the broadcast of a primetime network television series and production of a new series of Martha Stewart Living or a successor program" are achieved. In other words, if Burnett can get a post-prison Martha back on the air in prime-time -- which would make the price of thinly-traded MSO stock shoot up from its current level of about $14.50 per share (with some of that price attributable to the very announcement of Burnett's interest) -- he might soon be able to add "financial tycoon" to his resume.
The stock market views Burnett's actual partnership with Martha and MSO even more positively than his rumored partnership. In after-hours trading Wednesday night, MSO stock rose another 20%. Thus, Burnett's 2.5 million shares are already worth $12.5 million more than the exercise price of the warrant. Not a bad gain so far ... especially considering that filming of the new Martha Stewart show is still about a year away.
In the statement announcing the agreement, Burnett said, “Martha and MSO are pioneers in high-quality ‘how-to’ television, and I can’t wait to collaborate with them to develop the next generation of programming rooted in what they do so well. We will explore new ways to communicate that unique combination of teaching, usefulness, quality, style, and impeccable good taste that millions of viewers have enjoyed for over a decade. I look forward to a very productive relationship, starting with 2005.”
We aren't sure what that means the new show will be about -- but maybe that's a good thing, considering all of the idea theft in reality TV right now.
For her part, Martha Stewart said that she and her good friend Mark Burnett share a similar vision. “Mark and I have forged a bond based on similar creative visions and common respect for strong and distinctive programming. I am very pleased to work with him to produce new and useful shows that are pertinent to the audience of today and tomorrow. I look forward to collaborating with Mark to evolve our syndicated television program, to bring more of our unique blend of original high-quality, educational and inspirational programming to our loyal viewers and new programming to new audiences in primetime next year.”
We agree that Ms. Stewart needs "loyal viewers," as she will not be able to start production of the show until after she finishes her five-month prison term and subsequent five-month house arrest. But we rather expect that those viewers will still be there ... if only, at first, to see if prison life has changed America's #1 domestic diva.
However, from Burnett's previous comments, we expect that Martha's loyal viewers will be able to pick up tips on things they might like to know for their aesthetic well-being ... but not any tips useful for their financial well-being (such as how to get your stockbroker to tell you when insiders of a stock you own are selling in panic mode).