Fewer viewers, but young watch pageant

April 25, 2006|By JOE BURRIS | JOE BURRIS,SUN REPORTER

Miss USA is stunning, alluring, yet apparently not all that interesting.

The ratings for the pageant held in Baltimore last Friday for the second consecutive year and aired on NBC were down from last year with an estimated 7.7 million viewers nationally and a 5.1 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last year, it was a slightly higher at 8.1 million and a 5.5 household rating. The 7.7 million figure is close to the pageant's low point of 7.6 million which it drew in 2002 - a rating that led CBS to drop the show.

In 2004, when the pageant was held in Los Angeles and also broadcast on NBC, it drew 13 million viewers and an 8.2 household rating.

Last Friday, the show ranked tops in its time slot among 18 to 34 year olds, yet overall ranked third behind shows on ABC (20/20 and Primetime Live) and CBS (Close to Home and Numb3rs).

As for television markets, the show fared better in the Baltimore area than in most other cities, but even Baltimore's numbers are down.

Charm City had a 9.6 household rating (the percentage of homes locally that tuned in for at least a minute), which was second only to Knoxville, Tenn., among the 55 markets surveyed.

Yet last year, Baltimore drew a 14.2 rating.

"That's a big difference from a year ago," said Tom Bierbaum, vice president of ratings and program information for NBC Entertainment.

He added that the numbers of viewers may have declined because the network moved the pageant to Friday night from its Monday night spot of last year. Viewership tends to wane later in the week, he said.

Bierbaum said Baltimore's numbers might be down in this second year because "the pageant was moved to Baltimore last year, so there was more focus and more local attention."

The pageant did win the ratings war in the important 18-34 demographic. That's significant, Bierbaum says, as Miss USA is considered a show that draws older viewers.

He said that in other markets viewership often picks up when a contestant from that particular area reaches the runners-up stage.

That appears to be the case this year, as the third highest-rated market for viewership was Atlanta, which was likely tuned in to see second-runner-up Miss Georgia USA Lisa Wilson. Miss Kentucky USA Tara Elizabeth Conner of Russell Springs, Ky., won the crown.

The lead-in to the pageant was a repeat of the NBC reality series Deal or No Deal that featured 26 Miss USA contestants, which originally aired April 12. The repeat gave Miss USA a lead-in of 8.2 million viewers and a 2.4 rating. The network did the same last year, with a first-run Fear Factor episode that gave it a lead-in of 9.2 million viewers (3.8 rating).

joe.burris@baltsun.com

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