“Miss Universe” is extending its relationship with The Roku Channel and Telemundo. The Miss Universe Organization, which has been undergoing an overhaul under new owners JKN Global Group PCL, has sealed a multi-year deal with Roku and Telemundo to continue as the U.S. streaming and broadcast homes for the pageant, in both English and Spanish, respectively.
Roku streamed and Telemundo aired the most recent Miss Universe event in January; it repped the first live event ever streamed on Roku. Next up, the 72nd annual “Miss Universe” event will take place on Nov. 18, 2023, live from El Salvador. Joining this time will be L.A.-based production company InventTV, run by Sergio Alfaro, who will executive produce alongside Miss Universe’s Paula Shugart and Anne Jakrajutatip.
“I’m really proud of the show in January,” Miss Universe Organization CEO Amy Emmerich told Variety. “I think all those small nuance changes that we did behind the scenes for the rules, selection committee and the criteria behind it really went a long way. Our goal was to reignite and make sure people were aware it’s here. ‘Miss Universe’ is the Super Bowl in so many countries. But when it comes to the United States and European countries, we really need to elevate it. I felt like we did that. The numbers speak for themselves.”
Although as a streamer Roku doesn’t release exact numbers, it did report that “Miss Universe” reached “millions” with live and on-demand replay over the course of its first weekend. “The success of last year’s broadcast, which also marked The Roku Channel’s first-ever live event, not only demonstrates viewer appetite for live programming, but also the success that live programming can find in a free streaming environment,” Roku Media head of content David Eilenberg said in a statement.
At Telemundo, the Miss Universe event — which the organization calls its “finale,” given series of global events that lead to the main show — averaged 2.4 million viewers in linear and was the night’s No. 1 entertainment program in adults 18-49. For the first time, it was hosted by two women: Jeannie Mai Jenkins and Olivia Culpo.
Emmerich said the new pact with Roku and Telemundo — believed to be at least a two-year deal — will give them the stability to find other ways to innovate with the event.
“Now that this is done, I can focus elsewhere,” she said. “I think the power of the brand and driving relevancy around the world is overlooked by clients and media. It’s easy to laugh at this, but we just had a trans woman win over in the Netherlands, and it sparked huge conversation globally. And I say to people, ‘Oh, now everyone cares about Miss Universe.’ People want to laugh it off. Like it doesn’t matter. But then when something of substance happens, and we drive those conversations and we’re in the forefront on inclusivity, I think it does show that we matter. And that we have a strong presence in shaping culture, especially around the globe.”
Emmerich is referring to Rikkie Valerie Kollé, who made history in July as the first transgender woman to win Miss Netherlands, and becomes only the second openly transgender woman to participate in Miss Universe.
“Paula [Shugart] was ahead of time getting trans women to compete early on,” Emmerich said, noting that Miss Universe began allowing transgender participation in 2012. More recently, Miss Universe began allowing contestants who had been married, or have children.
“This brand is truly trying to fight for inclusivity,” she said. Women from more than 90 countries, via six continents, are set to compete for the Miss Universe title this year. An element of that contest is sharing social-impact causes; the current title holder, the United States’ R’Bonney Gabriel, runs her own sustainable fashion line, for example.
The news also comes as Miss USA (and Miss Teen USA) announce a new licensee: Laylah Rose, the CEO of VIP Pageantry and founder of VVV Global Ent., has taken over as president and CEO. Rose assumes Miss USA after Miss Universe Organization completed its investigation into last year’s Miss USA pageant, following allegations from some contestants that Miss USA had rigged its results. In the wake of the accusations, Miss Universe then suspended its contract with Miss Brands and Crystle Stewart (which ran Miss USA under a licensing agreement).
On Tuesday, Miss Universe said it hadn’t found any proof of rigging “after a thorough and extensive investigation.” But nonetheless, both Miss Universe and Stewart opted to part ways: “After much discussion and consideration, MUO and Crystle were unable to reach an agreement as to Crystle and Miss Brand’s continuing involvement with Miss USA and the Miss Universe Organization.”
With a new licensee for Miss USA, there may also be other opportunities to expand the entire footprint in the U.S., Emmerich said. “There are really good formats being birthed around the globe,” she said, noting that in some countries, the competition takes place over 30 days and/or is part of a larger TV event. “We’re looking at all these possibility of format, and what can be done here. I think [the new Miss USA license] will bring with it a lot of opportunity for the states and how to cover this pageant differently than it’s ever been done before.”
And then there’s also the addition to the production team of Alfaro, who has worked on events including the Alma Awards, Emmys, Critics’ Choice Awards and more. “I think it’s helpful having an outsider sometimes take a look in to see what more can we evolve… Trying out an external production company is a really interesting move. Sergio’s awareness around bringing in some of that fan excitement is going to really be extraordinary.”