In a move reflecting the diminished viability of beauty pageants in 2021; the free-fall of broadcast TV; the obsession with streaming — or maybe all of the above — the 100th annual Miss America competition will be seen only on Peacock.
The live stream on Thursday, December 16 will be available across time zones as well as on-demand after its conclusion. The shift ends decades of broadcast television airings of the event, dating to 1954. Peacock’s older sibling, NBC, aired the last Miss America show in 2019. Due to Covid, the 2020 edition was canceled, but organizers last April announced they planned to stage an in-person return. Even for a television property whose DNA is associated with a bygone era and with the Atlantic City boardwalk around Labor Day weekend, the retreat from linear TV is remarkable given its century of history, even with the cultural ground having shifted underfoot.
In 2019, the competition aired on NBC and drew a total audience of 3.6 million and a demo rating of 0.6. While the viewership declined 17% from the previous year, the share of 18-to-49s tied for the best of the night.
When NBCU parent Comcast reported its quarterly earnings last month, it did not provide an update on Peacock’s user metrics, saying only that it was exceeding expectations. Last summer, the company said it had drawn 52 million sign-ups and 20 million monthly active users. Like its streaming rivals, Comcast has never reported viewership numbers for any individual offerings on Peacock, indicating only certain top-performing titles and categories in relative terms.
Plus, outside of sports, few stand-alone specials with long-establish linear histories have jumped entirely to streaming as opposed to simulcasting. This year’s Tony Awards, in part owing to the depleted field of nominees due to pandemic shutdowns on Broadway, was shared by CBS and sister streaming outlet Paramount+. Before the modern streaming boom, in 2014, the Daytime Emmy Awards were unable to reach a linear TV deal, so they opted to stream via a website before regrouping and regaining TV carriage.
Live, non-sports events have seldom tested the streaming waters, in part because the nature of streaming is that it is on-demand. Because it is ad-supported and taps into news and sports across NBCUniversal, Peacock streams a much larger amount of live fare than its broad-audience digital peers.
Since 2018, the contest has been represented by media agency Young & Rubicam (now VMLY&R following a merger), which has had the mission of completely revamping the century-old property.
The overhaul was made necessary by swirling cultural currents. In 2018, during the initial phase of the #MeToo movement, the swimsuit competition was ditched and Y&R was hired. The show also relocated to the Mohegan Sun casino complex in Connecticut, a shift from its longtime roots in Atlantic City, NJ.
In addition to the move to Peacock, the one-night event has been broken up into five days of competition, culminating in the December 16 finale. Streaming will “provide a modern platform for us to introduce 51 outstanding individuals to a younger, broader audience,” organizers said in announcing the plan. “The show will highlight their unique personal stories, while featuring them as role models and community leaders of tomorrow.”