After 30 years on CBS, the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants are moving to NBC, starting next year.
Donald Trump has brokered a five-year deal with NBC for his pageant trifecta; it also includes the Miss Teen USA derby, which has been broadcast by CBS since 1983.
Like CBS, NBC will have a 50 percent ownership stake in the three pageants, and its syndication operation will sell the programs to international markets.
And, as part of the new pact, NBC's Telemundo network acquires the rights to broadcast the pageants in Spanish in the United States and Puerto Rico. Telemundo also will produce and broadcast Spanish-language pre-pageant programs.
Plus, NBC will market Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA merchandise on its home-shopping network and Web site, ShopNBC.
Trump, who has owned the pageants for five years, had been shopping them to other networks since April, against the possibility that CBS would end its long-running relationship with the franchise.
"Mr. Trump has been a great partner, but after the Miss USA pageant in March we notified him that we may not be interested in renewing the agreement to carry the pageants, and gave him permission to try and shop the pageants elsewhere," a CBS rep told The TV Column.
That Miss USA pageant averaged only 7.6 million viewers -- its smallest audience ever and a far cry from the early '90s, when it was snaring an average of about 20 million viewers.
All three shows' ratings had plummeted over the past several years, and several pundits had speculated that beauty pageants had become an anachronism.
Then, CBS moved the Miss Universe pageant out of the competitive May sweeps (it aired on May 29) and shot that theory all to pieces.
That broadcast jumped from the previous year's worst-ever average of only 8 million viewers to a night-winning 11.5 million. Miss Universe beat Game 5 of the NBA Playoffs and was the seventh most watched program of that week.
"They were always putting it against the top-rated programs on television," Trump told The TV Column. "It was on against the [season finale] of 'Friends'; four years ago it was the final episode of 'Seinfeld.' I told them I'm tired of being on against the final episode of the year on the number one show of the year."
This year's Miss Universe numbers shot up, Trump said, "because the women were so beautiful.
"Miss Russia, she was really beautiful. . . . You don't have to spend money on sets, all you need is a beautiful curtain and the girls. They're unbelievable. All 10 [finalists] were unbelievable. Guys turned [to the channel] for two seconds and then they couldn't turn back to the basketball game."
Trump celebrated by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times, "Beauty Beats the Beast," in which he congratulated himself "for having the foresight, imagination, and the well-known understanding of quality and beauty that brought the Miss Universe Pageant to a new level of excellence."
Nonetheless, CBS is now negotiating its way out of its 50-50 partnership, after which Trump will sell CBS's stake to NBC. He said that would take about three weeks.
"I want them to be a partner. When the broadcaster has an equity stake they care more about the asset.
"We had a lot of choices and we decided to go with NBC," Trump told The TV Column.
"Bob Wright has been a great guy; he interceded in the course of the negotiations," Trump said, adding, "It meant a lot that the chairman of NBC called."
NBC's deal doesn't kick in until 2003. This year's Miss Teen USA pageant will still air on CBS, in late August.