June 28, 2005

Miss America pageant moving to CMT

By Kimberly Speight

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - After a half-century onbroadcast network television and a decade of declining ratings,the Miss America pageant has found a home on country musiccable channel CMT.

The network said Monday that it has signed a multiyearagreement with the Miss America Organization to telecast thepageant -- one of TV's longest-running franchises -- startingin January. CMT will retain telecast rights through 2007, withoptions through 2011.

Miss America most recently aired on ABC, where it had beenbroadcast since 1997. ABC said in October that it wasn'tpicking up its option on the program, which last aired inSeptember to its lowest ratings ever, averaging just 9.8million viewers. NBC had the rights to the pageant for theprevious 30 years.

CMT is planning a major promotional push that will includeMiss America-supportive programming set to air on sisternetwork VH1, said Paul Villadolid, VP programming anddevelopment at CMT. (CMT and VH1 are owned by Viacom Inc.'s MTVNetworks.)

Villadolid added that he's hoping to lure a youngeraudience to the pageant, and cited CMT's own growth in the18-34 demo over the past six months. He also said that viewerswill see some changes in the pageant format to give it the"look and feel" of other CMT programming but that theyshouldn't expect anything radical.

He added that CMT isn't moving away from its originalmandate to focus on country music, noting that the Miss Americapageant and country music actually are similar in their appealto the people of the "American heartland" and their embodimentof the American dream and small-town values.

The Miss America pageant, which was first televised on NBCin 1954, is among a select group of programs that havemaintained a presence on television for a half-century,including CBS' "Guiding Light" (1952) and NBC's "Meet thePress" (1947), "Today" (1952) and "The Tonight Show" (1954).

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter