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Miss America moves from mainstream TV to streaming

The annual “Miss America” pageant, once a staple of prime-time TV viewing, is moving to a streaming-only event after years of sliding ratings and controversy over its role in the modern world.

Organizers said on Monday that “Miss America,” which marks its 100th anniversary this year, will air entirely on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform in December.

We look forward to entering the streaming world with Peacock this year to help introduce our 51 outstanding individuals to a younger, broader audience and showcase their unique personal stories,” Shantel Krebs, a former Miss South Dakota and current chief executive of the Miss America organization, said in a statement.

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.

Organizers said the decision was aimed at attracting younger and more affluent viewers who are accustomed to watching media on digital devices rather than on traditional television.

The move also follows a slump in viewers to record lows and the elimination of the swimsuit round to take account of a new wave of female empowerment. TV audiences dropped to an all-time low of 4.3 million people in 2018, when the swimsuit round was eliminated, and fell again to 3.6 million the following year.

The event, which started as a beachside beauty pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1921, hands out millions of dollars in college scholarships to its winners.

It experienced its own #MeToo scandal in late 2017 when internal emails came to light that contained sexist comments on the weight and appearance of some of the contestants. Several executives resigned.

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