Miss America May Transfer to Cable

Jun 27, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Miss America Organization is weighing bids for its annual pageant from WE: Women’s Entertainment and country music television network CMT, sources said.

Both networks are offering multiyear deals, with some key differences. Viacom-owned CMT would air the pageant with an unspecified “reality component” for two years. Rainbow Networks’ WE would air the pageant plus a behind-the-scenes reality show under a three-year deal, plus promote across Rainbow’s cable networks-including IFC and AMC.

Either option is a step down in visibility for the venerable organization, whose pageant previously aired on broadcast networks for 50 years. But for WE or CMT, the Miss America franchise is a potential boon.

WE needs a distinguishing signature event in its ongoing battle against higher-rated competitors Lifetime and Oxygen. For CMT, the pageant would appeal to its heartland demographic while potentially bringing noncountry fans to the channel.

WE, CMT, Miss America and deal broker William Morris Agency had no comment.

During negotiations, Rainbow has pointed to its acquisition of the Independent Spirit Awards. The awards were cross-promoted among its networks and aired on both IFC and AMC.

Miss America has been staged since 1921 and most recently aired on ABC. The Miss America pageant was once a ratings powerhouse-in 1961 it drew a 75 share. ABC chose not to renew its contract after the Sept. 18, 2004, telecast drew a record low of 9.8 million viewers. The 2003 contest drew 10.3 million.

Earlier this year the organization said it was pitching the pageant as a multi-episode reality series complete with behind-the-scenes drama and gradual elimination of contestants.

“We consider ourselves the first reality TV,” said Art McMaster, Miss America’s president and CEO. “Last year we realized our once-a-year show wasn’t cutting the cake. We saw reality shows like ‘American Idol’ passing us by. We feel America has got to get to know our contestants.”

The broadcast is key to the survival of the Miss America Organization. The search for a new network has put the organization in a time crunch and reportedly caused confusion and impatience among organizers and contestants. The pageant is traditionally held in September in Atlantic City, but officials have acknowledged the date may need to be pushed back.