Miss America: Here she comes - on CMT

June 28, 2005|By Iver Peterson | Iver Peterson,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The Miss America Pageant, which got the hook from network television last year, has signed a deal with Country Music Television, a division of MTV Networks, for a pageant to be televised in January.

That means that there will be no pageant from the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., this fall, as there has been most Septembers since the 1920s, although no decision has been made as to where the broadcast will ultimately originate. CMT has headquarters in Nashville.

With CMT, the pageant will get a potential audience of 79 million households, said Paul Villadolid, vice president of programming and development for CMT.

He added that the network would also work to overcome one of the weaknesses of the old pageant format, which did not allow viewers to develop a sense of familiarity and partisanship with contestants over several days or weeks leading up to the pageant, as popular reality shows like Survivor and The Apprentice do.

"Many of these young women come from areas that our audience cares about," he said. "They are small-town women who are looking to for a break, to fulfill a dream, and one thing we will want to do is to draw out these story lines so that when they get to the pageant we will have a sense of who they are."

The ABC network dropped the show after last year's viewership fell below 10 million.

Villadolid said that CMT would develop cross-programming with VH1, another MTV property, and on radio and on the Internet, to introduce viewers to contestants before the pageant.

In one change, he added, cameras may be allowed where no Miss America camera has gone before, into the backstage areas of the pageant, where contestants will be shown in a less structured setting. "One of the things that you're lacking," he said of the traditional format, "is a real sense and understanding of who these women are as real people."

ABC paid the Miss America Organization $3.2 million for broadcast rights for the pageant last year, money that supported the Miss America Organization, the pageant arm of the local pageants in 50 states and beyond. Art McMaster, the acting president and chief executive officer of the Miss America Organization, said in the interview that he would not discuss the financial arrangement with CMT. The channel has the pageant for two years, with an option to renew through 2011.

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