Donald Trump’s Miss USA Pageant Was a Real Money Loser for Reelz (Exclusive)

Network CEO Stan E. Hubbard tells TheWrap he never expected to turn a profit on the telecast that cost him $100,000

Olivia Jordan 2015 Miss USA Pageant (Josh Brasted/Getty Images for Miss USA)
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About the only winner on Sunday night’s Miss USA Pageant was Miss Oklahoma, Olivia Jordan, who walked away with the crown.

The ratings plummeted from last year and Reelz lost money on the broadcast, network CEO Stan E. Hubbard told TheWrap Tuesday.

“Did we break even on our financial investment? We did not,” Hubbard said. “But we didn’t lose a lot of money.” What the network did reap, he added, was “some standing in the industry and some standing with viewers, and that is hard to come by. We didn’t expect that we’d get our return [on investment].”

The live telecast of the Miss USA Pageant and a rebroadcast immediately after drew a combined 2.5 million viewers, according to Reelz. That number is less than half of the 5.5 million that NBC drew for Miss USA 2014, but it was enough to make Sunday night’s pageant the second most watched premiere in Reelz’s history, behind 2011’s “The Kennedy’s.”

Reelz picked up the broadcast rights for no more than $100,000, after NBC and Univision dropped out as TV partners, as TheWrap reported exclusively earlier this month. The pageant had become ensnared in the controversy surrounding co-owner and presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s campaign trail remarks referring to undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” The pageant’s co-hosts and judges also departed, forcing producers to turn to new on-air talent less than a week before the broadcast.

In that environment, Reelz found little success selling advertisers on the competition. The network reached out to “some 700 agency people,” according to Hubbard. But there were few takers.

“I would say almost universally we heard, ‘You’re doing the right thing and we’re glad you’re doing it,’” he explained. “What we heard from most then was, ‘But this is so politically charged, we just can’t let our brand be near it.” Hubbard estimates that out of roughly 45 minutes of non-program time in the live show’s three hours, “We had probably 15 minutes of paid ads.”

The rest of that time went to network promos and PSAs. Reelz offered to run PSAs for multiple Hispanic organizations, but was turned down by all.

While the network failed to break even on the pageant, it did exceed Hubbard’s ratings expectations.

“I did think that if we doubled our normal Sunday night, I’d be happy,” he said. “But we did probably 10 times our normal Sunday night.”