Why the Hubbards bought the rights to broadcast the Trump-owned Miss USA pageant

REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Donald Trump at a 2013 news conference with Miss USA 2013 Erin Brady at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Among the many advantages of being an “independently/family­-owned” operation is that your shareholders are pretty much the folks standing around your barbecue grill. You’re not worrying about indignant voices from people you’ve never heard of.

Case in point: With GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump getting buried under a mountain of media invective (while simultaneously getting boosted in the polls) for calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “drug dealers,” family­-owned Hubbard Broadcasting here in the Twin Cities jumped in and snagged the rights to next week’s Trump­-owned Miss USA pageant for its REELZ channel — backlash against Trump be damned.

Trump’s beauty pageant, staged in Baton Rouge, was jettisoned by the Spanish-­language Univision after his rallying-call remarks to likely primary voters. (Trump, being Trump, then announced a $500 million suit against the network.)

Cutting to the business opportunity floating in front of the Hubbards: The TV rights to the pageant were suddenly available, probably for a whole lot less than Univision was paying.

Stanley E. Hubbard — the eldest son of well­-known Hubbard operation patriarch Stanley S. Hubbard — runs the REELZ cable channel. He handled the deal, which was concluded Wednesday.

Assuming he got the rights for a song, the question of advertiser support for a “product” owned by Trump, with Trump’s name all over it, not to mention the guy doubling-­down on his “rapists” assertion in subsequent interviews, had to be the source of an enhanced level of trepidation.

How many more advertisers are likely to bail before the pageant airs July 12?

Says Hubbard: “Look, as for Trump, and let me say I couldn’t disagree more with what he said. He is not going to make a profit off what we’re paying for this. Heck, I doubt our licensing fee would cover the cost of the television production.”

Hubbard’s basic argument is that this is a longstanding “great TV event” — with substantial Hispanic involvement in terms of both talent and viewers — as well as a production of importance to the organizers in Baton Rouge and the young women involved. As he sees it, “One guy opening his mouth and saying a lot of dumb things” shouldn’t create a lot of collateral damage among people who have no control over him.

“Do I worry about viewers? Sure I do. I always do. Do I worry about advertisers? Sure I do. That’s part of the business. But we’re talking a week-and-a-half here. Most of the ad agencies in New York are going to be closed for the long holiday weekend, and even after that I wish you luck getting anyone in Manhattan on the phone next week.”

Point being, Hubbard is betting a lot of advertisers won’t be able to yank ads for Miss USA between now and showtime.

But even if everyone does, Hubbard says, “We’ll be in business the day after. I’m not going to get into the numbers, but your assumption that we paid very little here would be correct. If had to pay a million dollars to license the show, we wouldn’t have done it. But we didn’t pay anywhere near that. Moreover, if all we can do is run [Public Service Announcements] and promos for Reelz’s other programming, we’ll be just fine. I know a lot charities who’ll be delighted to have us run their PSA during the Miss USA pageant.”

The Hubbard family’s connection to traditional Republican politics is well known. Reelz wandered into a storm several years ago when it picked up “The Kennedys” mini-series after several other not “independently owned” networks passed on it, officially because of “historical inaccuracies” about the much mythologized clan. (Don’t get young Stan’s dad going on the Camelot myth.) 

“Even that wasn’t about politics,” says Stan. “People said it was. But it wasn’t. It was about TV. And it was good. We won four Emmys for ‘The Kennedys.’ It was good TV.”

He adds, for emphasis, “Being privately owned, there are a lot of things we can do [that] you can’t do within the corporate, regulatory sphere.”

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by charles thompson on 07/02/2015 - 07:44 pm.

    Hubbard and the Donald

    Birds of a feather flock together.

    • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 07/03/2015 - 10:50 am.

      Not necessarily.

      Hubbard is in it because it was such a steal. More importantly, he stole it from Trump.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/06/2015 - 09:04 am.

      I Don’t Know About That

      I have never heard that the Hubbards are racist. They are conservative (the news coverage on their TV stations has a definite Republican slant), but I don’t think they are racist.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 07/06/2015 - 02:22 pm.

        I think Hubbard just saw a great deal.

        He needs programming. This deal gives him a cost effective way to reach more potential long term viewers that were probably never aware of the channel’s existence and boost ad revenue along the way. I’m not a fan of Hubbard, but I sincerely doubt that cutting this deal was a political statement.

  2. Submitted by robert burns on 07/03/2015 - 12:44 pm.

    Hubbard and the Donald

    If Trump sold his TV show Miss USA for a big loss then Trump has the warm heart to not disappoint the contestants nor the hundred of millions of viewers.

  3. Submitted by Carrie Preston on 07/04/2015 - 02:46 am.

    Good Change

    Maybe Reelz can breathe some new life into the show and bring about some positive changes in the future. It might be too late this year, but I would think next year the show would attract dollars from Hubbard’s national and local advertisers.

  4. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/06/2015 - 08:16 am.

    To paraphrase

    2 irrelevants don’t make a relevant..

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