15 maio 2010

Trump's Miss USA Pageant

Katie Evans is an associate reporter on the Forbes Global Wealth Team. 

We had almost forgotten about the drama involving runner-up Carrie Prejean following last year's Miss USA Pageant. But a publicity stunt this week in which contestants posed in lingerie for a photo shoot quickly reminded us.

Some critics said the photos over-sexed the pageant. But the provocative shoot probably delighted the pageant's owner Donald Trump, who has become a celebrity in his own right. It was also likely a well-timed last-ditch attempt to get drama (or cleavage)-seeking viewers to turn on the event, which airs live from Las Vegas this Sunday at 7:00 pm EST on NBC, the same network that airs Trump's The Celebrity Apprentice.
"We are in the business of beauty and the contestants who compete for the title of Miss USA are not afraid to be sexy," Lark-Marie Anton, vice president of marketing & public relations for the Miss Universe Organization, said in an emailed statement. "These ladies are the full package - smart, accomplished, relevant and sexy!"
If Sunday's ratings are up, some credit will have to go to the Donald. So far though Trump hasn't been able to work his magic on the once popular event. Ratings for the pageant dropped 18% in 2009, according to Nielsen Ratings. Pageant viewing has dropped steadily since the 1980s when the event drew about 20 million viewers.
Trump took control of Miss USA and Miss Universe in 1996 when viewership had already fallen to about 10 million. Last year an estimated 5 million viewers tuned in for the whole show.
But the whirlwind of post-pageant scandal and spectacle might just be enough to score Trump a major ratings rebound this year. A quick flashback of what unfolded: runner-up California's Carrie Prejean opposed gay marriage onstage at the pageant, saying she supports "opposite marriage." A verbal spat between celebrity gossiper and pageant judge Perez Hilton and Prejean unfolded on live TV. Later racy photos of Prejean emerged. Trump, who was outspoken at every turn, dethroned Miss California due to contract violations.
When NBC renewed the contract for Trump's Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants for an additional three years in March, I wrote that the renewal was a big bet on Trump's knack for drama (See NBC Renews Trump's Drama- Ahem, Pageants).
Around that time, Nielsen estimated that over 7 million U.S viewers would tune in to this Sunday's show, a big improvement over last year's numbers.  We'll know for sure soon enough.

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