Sam Haskell, the CEO and chairman of the Miss America Organization, took a break from the competition's 2015 preliminaries this week to chat with B&C.
The pageant will mark its 60th anniversary on television on Sunday, Sept. 14 on ABC.
TV veteran Haskell is determined to stay true to that long history and distinguish his brand’s winners from the twerking Miley Cyruses and selfie-shooting Kim Kardashians of pop culture's landscape.
“We want Miss America to be the new role model—the girl-next-door, educated, talented role model,” says Haskell. “As opposed to all the celebutantes who parents worry are girls’ role models.”
Haskell, a gregarious Mississippi native, has been blue-skying about the potential for Miss America since coming aboard the organization in 2006 after a long run heading the TV department at William Morris. The pageant had drifted into a fallow period and had shuffled TV partners, dates and host cities.
Haskell struck up a partnership with Discovery Network. By 2008 the Miss America telecast had moved from CMT to TLC, with its own single-season reality show Miss America: Reality Check, a six-episode lead-up to the pageant.
Reality Check proved a turning point in Miss America's brand fortunes, Haskell says. The unscripted program "helped us lower the median age viewer from age 59 to 37. That’s what got ABC’s attention for 2011.”
Miss America takes its next step forward in a partnership with dick clark productions, which was announced Sept. 8.
"I picked them because they’re the No. 1 supplier of live event programming on network television today," said Haskell. "When you look at The American Music Awards or The Golden Globe Awards you know they’ve got a handle on how to do that. They’re going to put Miss America into all of it."
Dick Clark execs have also joined the Miss America board, he added.
The planning process fornext year's Miss America Competition, the first edition that dcp will produce, will start the day after this year’s show, on Sept. 15.
Sunday’s Miss America Competition telecast will feature a live pre-show with behind-the-scenes looks at the evening gown and talent competitions. The Bachelor's Chris Harrison and Good Morning America anchor Lara Spencer will check in with the contestants in the dressing rooms and the judges backstage.
Long-range priorities for dcp and Miss America include year-round programming and digital opportunities –"anything that we can facilitate to help sell our message and sell our brand," said Haskell. He pointed towards Miss America's commitment to getting young women into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field. The organization is going to reward five $5,000 STEM scholarships during the Sunday telecast.
Haskell and Miss America are looking to spread the brand internationally thanks to the new partnership. "We’re looking at the possibility of selling Miss America foreign. There are a lot of Asian audiences who would like to see Miss America and a lot of Hispanic audiences who would like to see Miss America in South American countries."