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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Viacom Brands Unite for Hurricane Relief Telethon On September 12

After Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents reeling from one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history, CMT teamed up with other broadcast networks to air a benefit telethon on Sept. 12.

Since then, Hurricane Irma decimated entire islands in the Caribbean and left millions of Florida residents without power. The affected areas are still in “rescue mode” according to The New York Times, meaning we don’t yet know the full extent of damage caused by this colossal storm, but experts agree it will be extensive.

Now, the telethon has expanded to aid the victims of Hurricane Irma. Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Relief also expanded its broadcast scope. Viacom networks MTV and BET will now join CMT in airing the special.

“Silence is overrated,” tweeted CMT. “Sometimes, music is the only thing that can get your mind off everything else.”

The hour-long special aims to do just that—use music as a way to bring peace of mind to those affected by the hurricane. And with BET, MTV and other broadcast networks now airing the event, Hand in Hand can reach as many homes as possible. This means more opportunity for people to make personal donations to assist hurricane victims. The telethon is predicted to be one of the largest benefit concerts in history.

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Meet Viacom’s Nine 2017 Cynopsis Rising Stars

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

They work in marketing, communications, programming, or gaming. They’re planted around the organization, helping to drive some of our most prominent networks and divisions: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, TV Land, VH1, Logo, Viacom Velocity. And though some have been here for years, they’re all just getting started in promising careers. They are the nine young Viacom standouts who earned recognition as Cynopsis 2017 Rising Stars.

This year’s awards follow a strong 2016 showing for Viacom, when six employees across a variety of brands were acknowledged. The nine honorees this year are Kelly Andersen, Ned Berger, Katrina Bucu, Rachel Burns, Kassie Deng, Marisa Mazart, Brielle Urssery, Jacqueline Vinci and Alexandra Woog.

Cynopsis will honor these young standouts at a reception on September 15 in New York City. Here’s a bit more about how each of them is forging their career at Viacom:

KELLY ANDERSEN – MANAGER, COMMUNICATIONS FOR MTV, VH1 AND LOGO

What she does: My days tend to include writing press releases, communicating with media outlets and escorting network talent to press appearances.

Tenure: Six years

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star:  My coworkers had secretly submitted me so I thought it was a spam email and I almost deleted it.

What helps her fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: I’m passionate about the work we are doing at MTV, VH1 and Logo, and with so many exciting things coming down the line, organization is key. I like to write everything down and map out a timeline to reach publicity goals for each series.

What is the most exciting thing happening with her team right now?: We are all prepping for VMAs!

What she is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I have no idea what to expect so I am just happy to be there!


NED BERGER – DIRECTOR, CONSUMER MARKETING, NICKELODEON

What he does: I’m with the Consumer Marketing department at Nickelodeon where I’m responsible for marketing for our tentpole events, including overarching strategy, off-channel execution, influencer marketing, content partnerships, and innovation projects.

Tenure: Four years

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star: I was thrilled to find out I would be receiving the award. To be recognized by my bosses and by Cynopsis for the work that I do is a real honor.  

What helps him fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: A big part of my job is being a brand steward. Nickelodeon is an incredibly strong brand and I work to provide kids with creative and fun ways to experience the brand. Our tentpole events (like Kids’ Choice Awards) truly bring the Nick brand to life, and the marketing of those events brings together brand strategy, creative innovation, and business goals.

What is the most exciting thing happening with his team right now?: We are going to be part of the team working on The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the newest version of our animated series. We’re all excited to work on such an iconic property and to be part of its reinvention for a new generation of fans.

What he is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I’m most looking forward to meeting bright talent from around the media and entertainment industries and forging new connections and relationships.


KATRINA BUCU – MANAGER, INTEGRATED MARKETING, VIACOM VELOCITY

What she does: I strategically develop and pitch multi-platform, integrated marketing programs across MTV, VH1 and Logo aligned to tentpoles, programming and editorial initiatives in order to drive advertising revenue.

Tenure: Since I graduated from college a little over five years ago. I like to say I’m Viacom born and raised.

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star: It was such a great way to start the week on Monday morning and I immediately told my friends and family! I was honored that my team had nominated me for this award and it’s an amazing feeling to have your work recognized, not only by your team, but by the industry.

What helps her fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: Key parts of Integrated Marketing include storytelling, negotiation and organization. In this role, I have been able to craft a marketing story that sells big ideas both internally and externally as the concepts need to match the objectives of the channel and brand to create an organic fit, building client relationships for key partners like Taco Bell, P&G and more.

What is the most exciting thing happening with her team right now?: The return of TRL! It was a key program during my teenage years. I’m excited for how it will be reinvented for today’s generation and how we can weave our advertising partners into the pop-culture platform.

What she is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I’m excited to celebrate with my fellow Viacom Velocity peers as they’re all deserving of this honor and it has been a pleasure to work alongside them. I’m also looking forward to meeting the other honorees and to learn from our shared passions and successes.

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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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