Country net ponies up to promote pageant

CMT aiming for auds online, on the tube, at Wal-Mart

CMT is spending upwards of $6 million to wrangle up an audience for the launch of the Miss America Pageant on Jan. 21.

Campaign is the largest for a single program in the history of the Viacom-owned country music cabler with the exception of that for the net’s annual “CMT Music Awards.”

Among the promotions in place:

  • Two- to three-minute profiles on each of the Miss America contestants are available on Comcast’s video-on-demand service and on CMT.com.

  • Beginning Monday, contestants will introduce each episode of “Wheel of Fortune” during Pageant Week.

  • CMT has bought up spots during Sunday night sudser “Desperate Housewives” in the Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York markets. “Housewives” star James Denton serves as this year’s emcee and recently pacted with the network to develop original series.

  • Cabler has pacted with Wal-Mart for a series of in-store spots that will lead up to the pageant.

CMT also is receiving full promotional support from its Viacom sibs. VH1 will air the one-hour spec “VH1 Goes Inside: Miss America” on Jan. 17 and will repurpose the competish at a later date. VH1, Logo, Spike, TV Land and Nick at Nite will run spots throughout the weeks leading up to the pageant.

On its own air, CMT has slated “Greatest Miss America Moments” at 7 p.m. preceding the pageant. Regular program “CMT Top 20” will shoot from the Aladdin — pageant takes place this year in Las Vegas — and “CMT Insider” will dedicate a pair of episodes to the event.

Network VP of programming and development Paul Villadolid said the message driving the campaign is simple: a return to tradition.

“When Miss America relocates from ABC…, fans can expect a return to its roots,” he said. “What we’ve done is strip away the modern artifices that were thrown in recent years.”

Execs have eliminated the quiz-show and casual-wear competitions while expanding the talent portion, reinstating the Miss Congeniality award (last handed out in 1974) and bringing back the iconic sash.

“CMT is interested in reinforcing who these women are and where they are from,” Villadolid said. “We need to create home-state rooting interest, which is why getting the faces of these contestants on Comcast’s VOD and on ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ etc., is so important. We want the CMT premiere of ‘Miss America’ to feel both new and refreshingly old at the same time.”

CMT recently acquired rights to NBC’s “Three Wishes,” which will launch immediately following this year’s contest.

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