Miss America off air again

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The Miss America Pageant is without a TV home again.

CMT said Thursday that it has notified the Miss America Organization of "its plans not to exercise its option to televise" the pageant next year and beyond. The country music network had telecast rights to the pageant — one of TV's longest-running franchises — through 2007, with options through 2011.

"We're very proud of the successful programming we've been able to produce with the Miss America Organization," CMT executive vp/GM Brian Philips said. "As a network, CMT is now in a more aggressive position to build off existing series and launch more original series and music-centric special events."

He added that CMT plans to continue supporting the organization by making "an ongoing commitment" to the group's scholarship fund.

Miss America officials said they have already started looking for a new TV home.

"We are embarking on discussions with potential new television partners to further expand our new marketing efforts and to ultimately broaden our viewership," pageant head Art McMaster said in a statement to the Associated Press.

This marks the second time in three years that the 86-year-old pageant has lost its TV home. ABC ended its relationship with the pageant in 2004, when ratings fell to a record low. CMT then picked up the pageant — which was moved from Atlantic City, N.J. to Las Vegas — with hopes of bringing in a younger audience to the telecast and even aired a companion reality series centered on the pageant.

This year's Miss America telecast averaged 2.4 million total viewers Jan. 29, off from its 2006 debut on CMT, which drew 3.1 million viewers, setting a viewership record for the network. Despite the dropoff, the 2007 telecast ranked as CMT's most-watched show since the 2006 pageant.

The Miss America news comes a day after NBC's announcement that it had renewed its exclusive agreement with Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Organization to broadcast the Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions — but not the Miss Teen USA pageant — on the network for three more years, effective in 2008.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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