Reelz Buys Rights to Miss USA Pageant as Networks Drop Trump

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The independent Reelz channel has picked up the rights to broadcast the 2015 Miss USA Pageant, days after NBC scrapped plans to air the program over comments Donald Trump made about Hispanics.

Trump, in a June 16 speech announcing a run for president, said Mexican immigrants bring drugs and crime into the U.S. and called immigrants “rapists.” The remarks led NBC to end its relationship with Trump on Monday. The network will no longer air the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants.

“The decision on the part of Reelz to acquire the rights to the Miss USA Pageant was based on our belief that this special event, and the women who compete in it, are an integral part of American tradition,” Stan E. Hubbard, CEO of Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Reelz, said in a statement Thursday. “As one of only a few independent networks, we decided to exercise our own voice and committed ourselves to bringing this pageant to American viewers everywhere.”

Reelz, owned by the Hubbard Media Group, is available to 70 million homes on major cable and satellite TV systems, including DirecTV and Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS TV.

In 2014, 5.5 million Americans watched the Miss USA Pageant, a 21 percent jump in viewership from the previous year. It was the top-rated non-sports program among the big four networks in its time period that night.

Reelz previously picked up a dropped TV miniseries in 2011. The network aired “The Kennedys” after The History Channel dumped it following criticism that it was inaccurate and unfair.

Last week Univision Communications Inc. canceled its telecast of the July Miss USA pageant as well, citing Trump’s comments. Trump responded by filing a lawsuit against Univision, seeking $500 million.

His comments also led Macy’s Inc., the largest department-store chain, to cut ties with him. The company said it has “no tolerance for discrimination in any form” and will phase out Trump’s menswear collection. The move came after a petition, which gathered more than 728,000 signatures.