'Miss America’ Wins CMT’s Ratings Title

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CMT: Country Music Television crowned its coverage of the 2006 Miss America Pageant on Jan. 21 as the most-viewed and highest-rated show in its history.

The pageant ceremony — in its first-ever live cable telecast — garnered a 2.6 household rating and averaged 3.1 million viewers, besting the 2.4 rating and 2.9 million total viewers generated by the April 11 CMT Awards. Still, the telecast — in which Miss Oklahoma Jennifer Berry was crowned Miss America 2006 — fell way short of ABC’s September 2004 telecast, which drew 9.8 million viewers. ABC elected to drop the pageant early in 2005 due to poor ratings. Three weekend airings cumed 12.5 million different viewers for CMT, according to network officials.

CMT struck a two-year deal with the Miss America Organzation last June.

“We matched our expectations of exceeding our CMT Awards program,” said vice president of original programming and development Paul Villadolid. “The buzz and promotion surrounding the pageant were like no other in our history and the ratings were a resounding victory for the network.”

Added Art McMaster, CEO of the Miss America Organization, in a statement: “The Miss America Organization is thrilled with the strong numbers for our first year with CMT.”

Villadolid said neither the pageant’s move from its annual September date to January nor the its relocation to Las Vegas from Atlantic City, N.J., hurt the awareness and appeal of the show. CMT and pageant officials have yet to determine when and where next year’s pageant will take place.

CMT has also not officially picked up an option to telecast the pageant through 2011, but Villadolid said that’s just a formality.

“We never went into the deal looking at it as a short-term play,” he said. “We spent a lot of dollars marketing this and trying to get it right with the intention of creating an event that has permanence.”

The pageant joins a lineup that was once dominated by music videos but now features more long-form reality programs. Villadolid said that CMT will continue to stay true to its country-music roots. Great American Country, the Scripps Networks-owned competitor in the space, has been been touting itself as a “pure country-music network.”

“CMT obviously generated a ton of media attention for the Miss America Pageant, but if you go beneath this event, we still have more successful and high-quality music programming than any other country-music network out there,” he said. “The network at its core is about country music.”

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