Pageant adds viewer vote

Miss America faces reality

CMT and the Miss America Organization are taking the pageant up a notch — reality TV style.

For the first time in competition history, viewers will help elect the final 15 contestants via the seven-part docudrama “Finding Miss America.”

Each episode will expose viewers to the previously closed-door competitions the judges use to pick the finalists. Contestants will be randomly divided into seven groups and will compete in the categories of evening wear, swimwear, talent and one-on-one judge interviews.

At the end of each show, viewers will be able to vote via phone and on CMT.com. Selections will be announced live during the January pageant telecast with 15 finalists advancing. Event then will proceed with judges picking the winner.

For the 2006 contest, CMT made short video profiles of the women available on Comcast’s video-on-demand service and CMT.com and dedicated on-air specials to the pageant.

“One of our goals with last year’s pageant was to give viewers the opportunity to really get to know these contestants and root for their favorites,” said CMT VP Paul Villadolid. “Now, in addition to their talent and smarts, personality will play a huge role in determining these finalists.”

“Miss America” relocated from ABC to the Viacom-owned country music cabler last summer. Before landing a deal at CMT, org had come up with its own plan to boost audience levels, initially pitching the pageant as a revamped elimination-style reality show. This year’s event drew 3.1 million viewers on CMT, becoming the most watched and highest rated telecast in the network’s history.

“While we deeply value and honor our organization’s traditions, we believe that this series will only increase viewer interest,” said Art McMaster, president-CEO of the Miss America Organization.

PB&J Television’s Julie Pizzi and Patty Ivins and CMT’s Villadolid and Nicole Zien will exec produce “Finding Miss America.”