NEW YORK – Shares of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO) rose as much as 10 percent Monday as Wall Street awaited the return to television this fall of the company's celebrity founder.
Martha Stewart's (search) "Apprentice" show will debut on Sept. 21 on NBC, while her live daytime how-to show "Martha" hits the air on Sept. 12 — less than two weeks after the home-confinement part of her prison sentence comes to an end.
In advance of her return to television — and comeback after serving a jail time for lying about a stock trade — investors have pushed shares of her company sharply higher over recent days.
The ore than 20 percent over the last week.
Brand experts are not certain, however, that the new shows will translate into higher interest in her company's products and publications among U.S. consumers.
"The fact is that lack of awareness is not something Stewart suffers from," said Robert Passikoff, founder of consultancy Brand Keys. "As motivators on their own, I don't think there is going to be all that much impact" from the television shows.
The stock is now at its highest level since March, when Stewart was released from prison after serving five months. The stock hit just above $34.00 at that time.
But Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's stock fell back over the following months and in July the company posted a quarterly loss of $33.5 million. It also forecast a loss for the third and fourth quarters.
Even so, advertising has picked up at the company's key magazines, Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food (search), as her brand has regained some of its former appeal.
At the time of its latest earnings statement in July, the company indicated it expected better circulation and advertising revenue with the launch of the TV and radio programs.
"They migrated her from villain to victim and now they are trying to show you the softer side of Stewart," said Passikoff.
But he warned that the TV shows may not be a quick fix. "You don't disappoint twenty-first century consumers and expect that closure and contrition are the things that bring you back to profitability," he said.