updated 4/26/2005 9:10:16 AM ET 2005-04-26T13:10:16

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., whose namesake founder was released from prison in early March, said its first quarter loss narrowed from a year ago but the multimedia empire still struggles with a continued slump in advertising.

The New York-based company reported Tuesday that it had a loss of $19.17 million, or 38 cents per share, in the three months ended March 31, compared with a loss of $19.48 million, or 39 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Total revenues fell 13 percent to $38.7 million, from $44.50 million in the year-ago period.

“2005 has started off as we expected with the company seeing momentum both from the strength of our brand and Martha’s return,” Susan Lyne, president and chief executive, said in a statement. “Importantly, Martha’s return has energized the entire company, and customers have enthusiastically welcomed her home.”

She added, “We see early signs of improvement in our core publishing business, and while this will not be an overnight recovery, we believe this trend will continue over the long term.”

Stewart, the former chairman and chief executive, was released from prison on March 4, after completing a five-month prison sentence for lying about a stock sale. Stewart is now serving five months of house arrest.

During the first quarter, the company’s publishing division posted revenues of $25.4 million, up from $23.9 million a year ago.

Revenues in its television division fell to $800,000 compared with $4.2 million in the year-ago period.

Revenues in merchandising were $9.4 million, compared with $10.8 million a year ago. And revenues for its Internet/direct commerce were $3.1 million, compared with $5.6 million in the year-ago period.

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