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Miss America Pageant Two-Steps Over to CMT

But, CMT said, it will still honor the "rich tradition" of the pageant, in which pretty young women parade around in little swimsuits and four-inch heels for the opportunity to spend the next year touting their "platform" of choice: AIDS awareness and education, curing childhood cancer, etc.

"If you look at Miss America [on broadcast TV], it was a little bit disadvantaged, a franchise that existed one day out of the year," Villadolid said. "On CMT we plan to make 'Miss America' a vibrant part of CMT's tapestry, so [it] will not just exist on one night."

ABC, which had broadcast the pageant for the past eight years, announced in October -- after its September broadcast logged an average of just 9.8 million viewers -- that it would not continue the relationship. That was the franchise's smallest audience since its television debut in 1954 and a mere shadow of the more than 25 million who'd tuned in as recently as 1995, when it was broadcast on NBC.

Even half the haul of that final, disappointing showing on ABC would be huge for CMT, which is available in about 77 million homes.

CMT's most successful special to date, the CMT Music Awards, averaged 2.9 million viewers in its initial telecast on April 11. CMT reran the show several times in prime time, and over those multiple plays the awards show's cumulative average was about 4.8 million viewers -- about half the audience scored by "Miss America" last year.

In interviews about yesterday's announcement with the Reporters Who Cover Television, however, CMT was slinging around a 15.8 million viewer number for the music trophy show over its five telecasts. That figure, as Reuters noted in its coverage, is about 50 percent more than the 2004 "Miss America" audience. Best we can figure, the stat is a cumulative number of the people who tuned in to watch as little as a few minutes of the 2 1/2 -hour program over those multiple prime-time plays.

When ABC pink-slipped the competition, Miss America was left without a broadcast outlet for the first time in 50 years, and TV industry navel-gazers forecast, correctly as it turns out, that it meant the end of the chick-fest on a major broadcast network.

In drawing just under 10 million viewers, "Miss America" had copped nearly the same crowd as the two-hour finale of Fox's plastic surgery "beauty" pageant, "The Swan." But while the median age of "Swan" viewers was 37, the median age of the "Miss America" audience was a broadcast-toxic 51.

Villadolid said yesterday the CMT connection should young-up the pageant's audience, noting that while "we target adults 18 to 49, we're having a strong surge in adults 18 to 34 over the last six months or so."

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