ABC has decided not to renew its deal to air the Miss America pageant, leaving the competition without a TV home for the first time in half a century.
The network’s decision comes after the 2004 pageant, broadcast Sept. 18, drew only 9.8 million viewers, its smallest audience ever. Ratings for Miss America have fallen in each of the past three years.
Arthur McMaster, acting president and CEO of the Miss America Organization, is couching ABC’s withdrawal in optimistic terms. “We are now free to pursue other parties who have expressed interest in our organization, and we are excited at the limitless opportunities that are now available for us to grow our brand,” he tells the AP.
The lack of a TV partner also deprives Miss America of a major source of funding. ABC paid more than $5 million this year to air the pageant, which reconfigured the talent competition in an effort to make the pageant’s final night more TV-friendly.
McMaster admits being “worried” about finding a new broadcast partner, but he likes Miss America’s chances. “There’s already been companies that have contacted us and expressed an interest,” he says.
ABC has aired the Miss America pageant since 1997. NBC, which had the rights to the competition for 29 of the 30 years prior to that, bowed out after 1996.