Miss America Takes a Dip-- In the Ratings

There she was.  And there viewers weren't.

Miss America's TV audience took a nosedive this year averaging just 2.39 million total viewers Monday night (Jan. 29) between 8 and 10 p.m. on cable's CMT. That was down from the 3.07 million it drew for its first showing on the country music channel last year and a far cry from the nearly 10 million it drew in its last broadcast on ABC, according to Nielsen Media Research

The pageant far surpassed CMT's average primetime audience - 424,000 viewers in prime during January - but paled in comparison to last year's record-high numbers for the cable network. This year's show--which crowned Miss Oklahoma Lauren Nelson-- was more stable in key demos, averaging 996,000 viewers 18-49 (down just slightly from last year's 1.05 million in the demo) and 735,000 women 18-49 (on par with last year's 780,000). This years show also shaved eight years off its median age--and average of 38 for the two-hour telecast.

That total audience dip came despite a marketing campaign that CMT valued at multiple millions of dollars, a move from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and a reality series that followed the contestants in pre-pageant competitions.

ABC, which had broadcast the pageant before CMT, decided not to renew its contract with Miss America after the 2004 show pulled in just 9.8 million viewers, then a record low. Viacom-owned CMT

picked up the rights

to run the pageant in 2006 and 2007, with the option to renew through 2011. The network has not yet decided whether it will exercise that option, according to a spokesperson.

As a cable network, CMT is not available in all TV households as is ABC, the broadcast network which last ran Miss America. Also, CMT last year ran the pageant on a Saturday night, when more viewers might have been looking for event programming to watch.