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ABC DROPS MISS AMERICA

ABC has dropped Miss America, leaving the famous beauty pageant without a network TV outlet for the first time in 50 years.

The network, which had carried the annual telecast since 1997 with a series of one-year contracts, notified Miss America Organization officials that they will not pick up the option this year, acting President and CEO Arthur McMaster said Wednesday.

"We are now free to pursue other parties who have expressed interest in our organization, and we are excited at the limitless opportunities that are now available for us to grow our brand," he said.

The move comes on the heels of a Sept. 18 pageant that drew a record low 9.8 million viewers.

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