CMT drops Miss America Pageant

Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:21am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter)- The Miss America Pageant is without a TV home for the second time in three years.

CMT said Thursday that it has notified the Miss America Organization of "its plans not to exercise its option to televise" the pageant next year and beyond.

The country music network had telecast rights to the pageant -- one of TV's longest-running franchises -- through 2007, with options through 2011.

Miss America officials said they have already started looking for a new TV home for the 86-year-old event.

"We are embarking on discussions with potential new television partners to further expand our new marketing efforts and to ultimately broaden our viewership," pageant head Art McMaster said in a statement.

ABC ended its relationship with the pageant in 2004, when ratings fell to a record low. CMT then picked up the pageant -- which was moved from Atlantic City, N.J. to Las Vegas -- with hopes of bringing in a younger audience to the telecast and even aired a companion reality series centered on the pageant.

This year's Miss America telecast averaged 2.4 million total viewers January 29, off from its 2006 debut on CMT, which drew 3.1 million viewers, setting a viewership record for the network. Despite the dropoff, the 2007 telecast ranked as CMT's most-watched show since the 2006 pageant.

The Miss America news comes a day after NBC's announcement that it had renewed its exclusive agreement with Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Organization to broadcast the Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions -- but not the Miss Teen USA pageant -- on the network for three more years, effective in 2008.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter