Monday, May 24, 2010

Breaking Pageant News: Miss America Returns to ABC!

Miss America Caressa Cameron and MAO Chairman Sam Haskell will be on Fox & Friends at 8 a.m. this morning for a "special announcement," but I think the cat's already out of the bag...

Miss America will return to network television, thanks to a three year contract with ABC! The 2011 pageant will air next January 15th. Here are a couple breaking news articles:

By Oskar Garcia
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Miss America is getting back to network television in time for her 90th birthday.

The beauty pageant has signed a three-year deal with ABC, with plans to air next year's competition live on Jan. 15, pageant officials said.

"It's a wonderful deal," Sam Haskell, chairman of the Miss America Organization, told The Associated Press. "It's much better than any deal that we've had in the last five years."

Haskell declined to discuss specifics of the agreement.

Miss America has not aired on network television since 2004, when ABC dropped the pageant after record-low ratings. Since then, it has aired on cable, twice on CMT and three times on TLC.

This year's pageant — won by Miss Virginia Caressa Cameron — topped cable television excluding movies with 4.5 million viewers the night it aired. That was about 1 million more viewers for the pageant than in 2009.

But Miss America found itself without a TV deal in March after cable network TLC declined to pick up a three-year option, opting instead to seek a two-year deal for less money.

Haskell said the latest ABC deal brings the pageant full circle from 2004.

"We were given a chance to re-brand, to keep what was traditional but make ourselves more today, and I think we've done that," he said. "We're now back with a lot of strength and back to show everyone that Miss America is the American tradition. It's a pop icon."

No final deal has been made yet on the location of the pageant, said Haskell and Art McMaster, chief executive of the Miss America Organization. The national competition was held this year at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

McMaster said plans for next year's pageant include an attempt to bring together as many former Miss America winners together as possible in celebration of the pageant's history. About 60 are still alive.

The pageant was founded in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1921 as a bathing beauty revue.

Haskell said Miss America 2011 would also reflect renewed efforts to distance the competition from Miss USA, the rival, headline-grabbing pageant owned in a joint venture by Donald Trump and NBC.

"No little girl walks around saying, 'I want to be Miss USA when I grow up.' She says, 'I want to be Miss America,'" Haskell said.


Three-year deal for beauty pageant
By Michael Schneider

ABC has rescued the Miss America Pageant.

Under a three-year deal, the event returns to the Alphabet net in January. Pact reps a return to broadcast TV for the pageant, which moved to cable after ABC dropped it in 2005 due to low ratings.

...ABC's decision to bring back the pageant comes as the networks continue to experience ratings growth for big events -- including the Super Bowl, Oscars, Grammys and Emmys. Some of that success has been attributed to the growth of social networking.

...As part of the setup, Tall Pony Prods. ("Radio Music Awards," "Fashion Rocks") is on board to handle the live telecast. Anthony Eaton and Lauren Harris are exec producers.

NBC carried Miss America for 30 years, but dumped the pageant in 1997 as it struck a partnership instead with Donald Trump and rival Miss USA.

ABC then took over the event in 1997, only to see ratings for the pageant drop nearly 50% over the course of nine years -- finally opting not to renew after Miss America 2005 was crowned in late 2004. Miss America found itself on hard times after that, moving to niche-oriented cablers. First stop was country music outlet CMT, where it hit rock bottom in 2007 -- averaging just 2.4 million viewers. TLC ran the pageant over the past three years, bringing the aud up to 4.5 million this past year.

..."For the organization to thrive, we need young girls to continue to grow up to want to be Miss America," said Haskell, whose wife, Mary Donnelly Haskell, was once Miss Mississippi. Haskell works pro bono for the Miss America org.

..."Our girls require community service and must have a talent," he said. "There's also a requirement to be in college. And we make sure that every single one of our women leave with scholarship money."

Click the headline to read the entire Variety article.

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