Upfront 2012: CMT Riding High

Sawyer by Mark Jafar, Viacom
the-band-perry

The Band Perry performed at CMT's Upfront in NYC on April 4.

CMT had every reason to ride into Manhattan on a high horse.

The Nashville-based network arrived in town yesterday for its 2012 Upfront presentation on a run of success unlike any in its history.  New originals including My Big Redneck Vacation, Bayou Billionaires and Sweet Home Alabama have CMT humming in primetime, and the network is strengthening its powerful connection to country music, in a time when country stars new and established are bigger than ever.  Even New York’s own Grey Lady recently proclaimed CMT a “pop cultural juggernaut.”

CMT President Brian Phillips opened the afternoon event held at the Museum of Arts & Design in Columbus Circle.

“We jacked up development, produced more original hours than ever before, and knocked out the two biggest hits in CMT’s 20-year history…on the same night,” Philips said.  “Total day and prime grew, and we hit the bullseye with our young audience.  Streaming shot through the stratosphere.  We tripled our social footprint.”

CMT President Brian Philips

Philips gave a big chunk of credit to Jayson Dinsmore, CMT’s Executive Vice President of Development, who has helped transform the network’s primetime lineup despite being in the job for little more than a year.  Dinsmore followed Philips to recap the many successes CMT has notched since its last Upfront presentation.

 “Last year, we promised to take CMT families on a journey into new worlds, through the eyes of characters they would fall in love with, make them cry and roll with laughter,” Dinsmore said. “Our goal was to take our viewers on a ride to new, surprising places while staying true to the values that make this network great.  And I’m thrilled to report that we have indeed delivered on one wild ride.”

Dinsmore also previewed CMT’s upcoming slate, and the strategy behind it.

“We partner with dynamic talent both in front of and behind the camera.  Talent that understands our audience.  Talent that is our audience.”

CMT EVP of Development Jayson Dinsmore

That strategy was evident in the new shows Dinsmore shared with the crowd including:

  • CMT’s first-ever animated series Bounty Hunters, featuring the holy trinity of heartland comedians – Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy – and Lisa Lampinelli.
  • A half-hour reality comedy called Trinity 911, which is a lighthearted on flatfoots in the tiny town of Trinity, Texas – population 2,697.
  • Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country, which follows the “Beverly Hills 90210” star’s move from L.A. to a seven-acre farm in rural Central California.
  • Melissa & Tye, which flips the trajectory of A Little Bit Country in following jilted Bachelorette Melissa Rycroft and her husband Tye as they answer the call of Hollywood and move from Texas to Los Angeles.

Finally, Dinsmore introduced the cheerleading reality drama CHEER with a help from its superstar producers Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos.

"CHEER" Producers Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos

CHEER follows an elite competitive cheerleading squad, and the triumphs and setbacks it endures in the pursuit of greatness.   At the center of the drama is Patty Ann Romero, the squad’s gutsy headstrong coach, whom Ripa and Consuelos acknowledged from the stage.

Ripa jokingly admitted that producing the CMT show was her Hail Mary play to lock up a spot on the cast of the network’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.  Consuelos said the spot was hers, but they’d have to give up their Hamptons house for the next season of My Big Redneck Vacation.

The event closed with an acoustic performance by The Band Perry, which referred to the CMT team as “family” before launching into a three-song set – which included hit “If I Die Young” – that filled the intimate venue beautifully, and held the seen-it-all industry audience in rapt attention.  We swear the woman behind us was even singing along.

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