TLC dolls up for deal with Miss America

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In her first major programming move since taking the reins at Discovery Communications' TLC, president and GM Angela Shapiro-Mathes has acquired the rights to the Miss America Pageant for the next three years.

The pageant — one of TV's longest-running franchises — had been without a TV home since cable channel CMT dropped it in March (HR 3/30).

TLC has inked a deal with the Miss America Organization to telecast the beauty contest through 2010, beginning with the upcoming event on Jan. 26, which will air live from Planet Hollywood Las Vegas.

"We will hold on to the core and the heart of the pageant while making it far more relatable for the women of today," Shapiro-Mathes said.

TLC, best known for such unscripted series as "Trading Spaces" and "While You Were Out," will launch a reality series in conjunction with the pageant that will follow the 52 contestants as they prepare for the competition.

"When you see (the contestants) at the pageant, you see the final product," Shapiro-Mathes said. "A reality show gets you to the human side, the vulnerability and the hard work behind it — layers you haven't seen on television."

The 2008 Miss America pageant will serve as the series' "ultimate payoff," she said.

Shapiro-Mathes hopes to use the contest to launch new series around it in January.

Sam Haskell, chairman of the board for the Miss America Organization, said the company had been approached by several networks in the past four months.

"It wasn't about making a deal, it was about making the right deal, and this was the right deal for us at TLC," he said. "Miss America' s move to TLC will give it the proper promotion and attention it deserves."

The 86-year-old Miss America Pageant first lost its TV home in 2004 when ABC opted not to continue its seven-year relationship with it after record-low ratings. CMT then picked up the competition — which was moved from Atlantic City, N.J., to Las Vegas — with hopes of bringing a younger audience to the telecast — and aired a companion reality special centered on the pageant.

This year's Miss America telecast on CMT averaged 2.4 million total viewers Jan. 29.

Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Organization's Miss USA contest continues to air on NBC, which earlier this year renewed it as well as the Miss Universe pageant for three more years.

Miss America Organization's deal with TLC was brokered by WMA.
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