CMT

CMT Celebrates 2017 With a Milestone: 53 Weeks of Consecutive Growth

Combining network transformation and honoring tradition, CMT broke records this year with 53 weeks of consecutive growth. It’s the longest active growth streak in cable (among all ad-supported cable channels).

How did CMT achieve this landmark?

The network remained true to its mission statement, fueling its status as the leading authority on country music and lifestyle by re-branding the network to become more than just a music channel, but an entertainment hub for modern country culture.

The new creative filter beckoned a programming renaissance, with hit shows and specials including Nashville and the limited run series Sun Records, while fan-favorite series like Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team were re-energized and attracted new fans.

CMT re-examined its signature music events and specials with fresh eyes. With the seminal series CMT Crossroads which pairs a country act with a pop artist, the network focused on more diverse and current pairings like Maren Morris and Alicia Keys, Thomas Rhett and Nick Jonas, and Florida Georgia Line and Backstreet Boys, which scored the highest “Crossroads” ratings in 5 years.

Fresh off a pair of Grammy-nominations, Kesha is joined by Old Crow Medicine Show for a newly interrupted version of her smash hit Your Love Is My Drug:

Given the hurricanes and shootings in Las Vegas, the annual CMT Artists of the Year special was evolved from a celebration of the year’s top artists to a night of hope and healing. Fans responded…the critically acclaimed special notched the event’s highest ratings ever. And with the CMT Music Awards, CMT successfully expanded the event from one-night event into a three-day festival for sponsors and fans. The events dominated downtown Nashville with multiple sponsor activations, music performances, and fan experiences… creating the largest footprint in CMT history.

The growth isn’t just limited to television. This year, CMT’s ramped up social strategy bolstered its reach to be “everywhere fans are.”  It’s working: in the past year, CMT’s Facebook fans have increased by 3,000 percent.

While the brand continues to expand, its commitment to its fans has never wavered. In the last few months alone, CMT expanded the “Empowering Education” campaign encouraging our fans to pursue higher education and was proudly the first cable network to sign-up for the “Hand in Hand” telethon benefiting hurricane victims.

The last 53 months of growth coincided with subtle yet impactful changes on CMT: introducing more culturally-relevant content to the network, and spreading such content across a range of platforms.

“We discovered that more than ever country fans cannot be put into one box. They connect with smart content which reflects their diverse identities.”

– Frank Tanki, CMT and TV Land General Manger

Network executives chose this course after careful reflection: What does it mean to be a diehard country music fan in 2017?

It means being socially-conscious.

It means having a diverse taste in music—with Carrie Underwood and Beyoncé on the same Spotify playlist.

It means being open to progressive dialogue and content.

CMT fans are diverse in age, race, ethnicity, class and nationality.

“We discovered that more than ever country fans cannot be put into one box,” said Frank Tanki, CMT and TV Land General Manger. “They connect with smart content which reflects their diverse identities.”

And many are millennials, equally appreciative of the historical significance of the genre, jamming to CMT playlists on their iPhones and attending live concerts to enjoy today’s current stars.

“As we connect with more millennials,” said Tanki, “We realize that country fans are younger and increasingly diverse. To remain the authority on country, we adopted a more progressive and inclusive point of view. And to stay culturally relevant, we began reflecting what was happening in culture right now.  And we’ll continue to challenge ourselves to keep reinventing our brand.”

The network made a decision to let go of some older shows that no longer fit the brand mission, but this was accompanied by introducing new shows—original scripted programming or saving proven hits like the endearing fan-favorite Nashville. The “Nashie” fan-base has generated record-breaking numbers for CMT, and Nashville remains the network’s highest-rated and most-watched show in CMT history. These new fans stayed, and ratings soared.

The network is commemorating this phenomenal ratings growth by doing what it does best: connecting artists with fans.

On Thursday, Dec. 14 CMT unveiled its annual LISTEN UP list of 18 emerging artists (18 for 2018) that the network will support and amplify across all platforms, digital and linear, for the next year.

LISTEN UP spotlights talent, giving fans a deeper look at the careers of these potential country superstars through featured promotion of their new music and videos.

“CMT’s ratings trajectory is further proof that our new mission of embracing and redefining modern country culture is working,” said Tanki. “Music is our brand cornerstone and key to our growth. Franchises like LISTEN UP allow us to join forces with new artists at the forefront of evolving the genre and give them a massive megaphone to reach countless new fans.”

Since 2011, the franchise has helped spawn the careers of fledgling stars including Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Jon Pardi, Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, and RaeLynn. Last year’s class alone, included breakout stars Carly Pearce, Luke Combs and Midland.

This year’s “18 for 2018” LISTEN UP artists are Abby AndersonAshley McBrydeBailey BryanCale DoddsDelta RaeDevin DawsonJillian JacquelineJimmie AllenJordan DavisKassi AshtonLevonMaggie RoseMorgan EvansMorgan WallenRussell DickersonRyan KinderThe Sisterhood Band and Tyler Rich.

This year’s “18 for 2018” LISTEN UP artists. Photo courtesy of CMT.

“LISTEN UP taps into CMT’s influence and platforms to guide fans to talented emerging artists that might not yet be on their radars,” said CMT’s senior vice president of music strategy and talent, Leslie Fram. “This lineup represents the diversity within country music – from traditional to modern country, mixed with a little bit of soul. We look forward to sharing their passion and great music with our audience all year long.”

Viacom applauds CMT staff and stars for this colossal achievement. We’re proud to have CMT as part of the Viacom family, and look forward to what the maverick network will produce in the New Year.

Take a look at the upcoming slate of new programming for 2018, including Music City from the creator and executive producer of The Hills and Laguna Beach (premiering March 1). In many ways, it’s the real life Nashville.

Watch the trailer:


Follow CMT on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for the latest news. Visit CMT.com for more shows and updates.

CMT Artists of the Year Clocks Record Ratings With Moving Disaster Tribute

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Honorees Chris Stapleton, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan speak onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

In a powerful display of unity and emotion honoring the victims of manmade and natural disasters across the United States, CMT’s Artists of the Year event aired to record ratings on Wednesday night, skyrocketing 61 percentage points over 2016 numbers while drawing more than 1.1 million fans. The program also ranked as the most social entertainment program in primetime on cable, while #CMTAOTY trended nationally on Twitter.

CMT recast the event – typically a celebration of the year’s premiere country artists – into a “night of hope and healing” following a savage mass shooting that killed 58 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival earlier this month, as well as a trio of hurricanes and a plague of wildfires that have disrupted life throughout much of the nation.

“We felt a commitment to our fans to transform the event into a night where we honor human resilience through music, and hopefully in the process lift the spirits of our fans,” said CMT General Manager Frank Tanki. “We’re thrilled that the special connected with so many people, especially those who’ve been impacted by the recent tragedies.”

The show’s ratings success hits as CMT is riding a 10-month ratings streak, with sustained year-over-year growth over that period among key demographics.

Here are a few highlights from the show, which aired from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Artists of the Year deliver message of unity and resilience

When the gunfire erupted over the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1, country music star Jason Aldean onstage. His audience was the killer’s target. As Aldean rushed to cover, 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the unending barrage of bullets.

To open the show on Wednesday night, Aldean appeared alongside the other Artists of the Year: Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. The performers – whom the network had selected in September, prior to the format change – had all agreed to forego formal awards and focus on victims of the recent tragedies. They opened with a message acknowledging the power and importance of music, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength and courage of first responders and fans:

The show resonated especially powerfully in Las Vegas, where ratings increased an astronomical 1,877 percentage points over last year.

Country stars deliver a powerful genre crossover with a tribute to Tom Petty

CMT has a bold tradition of fusing artists (pop legends The Backstreet Boys performed country sensation Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y. during the show), and one of the night’s most uplifting moments came on just such a crossover. Aldean, Urban, Stapleton and country mainstays Little Big Town united on stage for a tribute to the late Tom Petty, belting out a stirring ensemble cover of the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down.

One of Petty’s most famous songs, the defiant anthem served as an appropriate tribute to the music legend while doubling as an apt rebuke to the fear and retreat that killers like the Las Vegas mass murderer hope to inspire:

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How CMT Transformed Nashville Into Its Most Successful (And Progressive) Show

In 2015, Rolling Stone said ABC’s Nashville “reflects real-life struggles in the entertainment industry.”  This was in reference to the country soap’s gay characters, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Kevin Bix (Kyle Dean Massey).

At the time, Bix was a new addition to the Nashville family, and as an openly gay singer, struggled to have a successful career. Lexington was hiding his sexual identity from his fans, while flourishing professionally.

Flash forward to 2017. Nashville moved to CMT for its fifth season earlier this year. Now, Lexington is out and proud, realizing he could still embrace his role as a country music star as an LGBT individual after being forced out of the closet in season three by a rival musician.

Since joining the CMT roster, Nashville has become the network’s highest-rated and most-watched series ever. Even after losing a beloved main character (Rayna James) in a tragic car crash, the show has remained wildly successful.

At least part of this success can be attributed to CMT’s inventive and progressive storyline and character development. Take Lexington’s evolution, for example. Entertainment blog Cinemablend commended CMT on “sprucing up” his character, giving him more than just romantic story arcs and LGBT-drama to fill his screen time.

Even the network’s portrayal of his sexuality has adopted more realistic angles. Even though Music City is full of heartbreak and drama, being a gay country singer doesn’t have to be riddled with conflict. In a recent episode that aired during Pride Month, Lexington got the opportunity to be a brand spokesperson for Budweiser.

Watch the fictional spot:

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CMT Awards 2017 Delivers a Genre-Transcending Spectacle of Music and Entertainment

In early June, country’s hottest stars rocked Nashville’s Music City Center at the 2017 CMT Music Awards. Despite competing with the highest-rated NBA Finals in two decades, the show drew in more than 3 million fans to watch a night packed with performances, award presentations and a tribute to country legend Gregg Allman.

Nashville star and show host Charles Esten started the night with a celebrity-filled parody showcasing another of his many talents: comedy. Playing his Nashville character, Deacon Claybourne, Esten explored the “AirCMT” mansion – the commandeered home of Rayna Jaymes – alongside “The Darius” Rucker, who assumed the role of CMT president. Inside, stars such as Kellie Pickler, Billy Ray Cyrus and Little Big Town interact in an odd houseguest skit that creates a hilarious segue into the awards ceremony.

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Superstars Combine, Allman Honored, Video of the Year Decided – All on Tonight’s CMT Music Awards

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Expect a parade of country music superstars performing and presenting. Expect blow-your-mind onstage collaborations between wildly different musical acts. Expect a down-to-the-wire vote on the video of the year. Expect a tribute to the late Gregg Allman. And expect it all to come together under Nashville star Charles Esten at tonight’s CMT Music Awards.

Yup, you can expect all of this:

There’s a lot to process in that quick video, so here’s a bit more of what you need to know about tonight’s show:

You can still vote for video of the year even after the show starts. 

Fans have narrowed the finalists for video of the year from an original 14 to these seven nominees: Carrie Underwood, Cole Swindell, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and the CMA-produced 50th anniversary video, Artists of Then, Now & Forever. Vote now.

Also help us select a #SOCIALSUPERSTAR presented by Pepsi

You can honor an act who uses social media to connect with fans by tagging your social posts with #CMTawards and with the artist’s tag, #VoteBrett (Brett Eldredge), #VoteJake (Jake Owen), #VoteKeith (Keith Urban), #VoteKelsea (Kelsea Ballerini), #VoteLauren (Lauren Alaina) or #VoteThomas (Thomas Rhett). You can cast up to 50 votes.

Never-before-seen combinations of superstars will hit center stage

The country music crossover is now a thing, and we will bring you one of the coolest tonight, when The Chainsmokers perform alongside Florida Georgia Line. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood will perform a duet. Jason Derulo and Luke Bryan will reunite. Earth, Wind & Fire will appear alongside Lady Antebellum, while Peter Frampton will team up with Brothers Osborne.

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Daphne Finds Comfort in Daria as Nashville Returns to CMT on June 1

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

When Nashville returns to CMT from its mid-season break tonight, fans can expect more immersion into the fictional and fascinating country music scene of the show’s eponymous city. But the show takes a musically adventurous turn in this preview clip of Daphne (Maisy Stella), who is apparently a huge fan of MTV’s classic show Daria.

Presumably still reeling from the death of her mother, Rayna (Connie Britton), and struggling in school, Daphne stumbles out of the mainstream and befriends exuberant vagabond Liv (Odessa Adlon), who squats in a junk-laden abandoned industrial space alongside a posse of self-described “people that nobody cares about.”

When Liv interrupts a palm reading to calm a crying toddler with You’re Standing on My Neck, the Daria theme song, Daphne joins in amazed recognition.

“You’ve seen Daria?” Liv asks, impressed (the two teenagers were likely infants when the show last ran new episodes, in 2002), before rallying her motley housemates in a change jar-clanging singalong.

What do you think, Daria? Pretty cool, right?

via GIPHY

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CMT Releases First Nashville Trailer; Date of Sneak Peak

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

We teased Nashville back in September, when CMT released its first teaser of season five and announced a Jan. 5 debut date. The net has not only come back with the first official trailer for the series, but a gift for anxious fans: the first hour of the two-hour season premiere will air on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 9 p.m.

You can get more details on the intrigue and the excitement to expect here. But, really, you should be following @NashvilleCMT on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you get the latest updates as soon as they’re released.

Who Needs Turkeys? CMT to Serve Up Chicken-Themed Treat for Thanksgiving Eve

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Have you ever heard a chicken being favorably compared to Paris Hilton?

Or being described as a warrior?

Or being analyzed for its behavior in its social cliques? Its cliques of, you know, other chickens?

Well, you will. And you will because you will watch CMT’s documentary Chicken People, a deeply engaging and human exploration of the surprisingly enormous world of prize chicken breeders. And when it’s all over, you will understand why the Ohio National Poultry Show is considered the Westminster of Chickens, and why the subjects of this film care so deeply about the competition that they dedicate enormous portions of their lives to cultivating the perfect fowl.

Critical reception has been strong since Chicken People, directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes, debuted at SXSW earlier this year before going on to screen at nearly a dozen other festivals, including Nashville, Seattle and Atlantic. Reviewers have responded favorably to the documentary’s success in distilling meaning from the sprawling, intricate and exacting world of competitive chicken breeding.

“As enthusiastic as [the other main characters] are, however, their narratives are overshadowed by the poignant story of Shari McCollough, a homemaker and mother of five (children, not chickens) from Crawford, Ind., who credits poultry breeding and competition with helping her overcome depression and alcoholism,” writes Variety’s Joe Leydon. “When she says, late in the documentary, ‘Chickens make me brave — they make me face fears head-on in life,’ her matter-of-fact sincerity carries an unexpectedly potent emotional wallop. Just as important, it encourages a viewer to consider just how common her attitude is among the other breeders.”

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CMT Celebrates Powerful New Sounds Coming from the Next Women of Country

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Since 2013, CMT has shown an annual spotlight on the remarkable breakthrough female talent on the country music scene with its Next Women of Country roster. Last week, the net released its 2016 list, and the women on it are awesome.

From the female trios of Runaway Jane and Post Monroe to a broad list of signed and unsigned solo artists, CMT is providing a platform through its NextWomen.CMT.com site for fans to check out the creativity, energy and emotive lyrical power pouring out of this group.

While women remain underrepresented in country music as a whole, efforts like this ongoing push by CMT hope to change that by constantly showcasing the outsized talents of this new generation. The net will complement their site with weekly exclusive Next Women of Country LIVE performances on CMT.com.

“We’re so thrilled to introduce this incredibly talented and diverse mix of female artists to the Next Women franchise,” said CMT Senior Vice President of Music Strategy and Talent Leslie Fram. “With the full support of the industry behind us, we continue to see this initiative make a real difference in propelling female artists into the spotlight.”

To see just how good this group is, check out the video previews of each of the 10 artists or groups of artists on the list below. You can follow #CMTNextWomen on Twitter for continual Next Women of Country Updates.

CAITLYN SMITH:

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