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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Relive the Most Thrilling Moments From the 2016 CMT Awards

From its mod, jewel-toned stage to performances featuring a fusion of country legends, rock, and pop stars, the 2016 CMT Awards energized a classic genre with radical twists. The night celebrated country music’s rich history while showcasing its eclectic, contemporary fan base.

NFL Star J.J. Watts and TV personality Erin Andrews hosted the event, which trended on Twitter with the hashtag #CMTAwards for several hours on Wednesday, June 8.

Here are some highlights from CMT’s wildest party of the year.

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 08: Erin Andrews and J.J. Watt host the 2016 CMT Music awards at the Bridgestone Arena on June 8, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

Erin Andrews and J.J. Watt host the CMT Awards.

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Here’s Why Country Singer Courtney Cole Says Education is Empowering

Courtney Cole first debuted on the country-pop scene in 2011 as a contestant on CMT’s Next Superstar. After the last episode aired, she inked a deal as a songwriter. She’s since put out two EPs, toured with Miranda Lambert, and attracted thousands of fans with feisty tracks like “Ladylike”, and soulful ballads like “Fall Like Rain.” Critics have compared her to a younger Taylor Swift.

But if Cole hadn’t gone to Belmont University, she says she’d probably be working an odd job in her rural hometown of Mandeville, Louisiana. Education is an integral part of her burgeoning career. That’s why she is CMT Empowering Education’s spokesperson for 2016.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 02: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: Singer songwriter Courtney Cole poses for a portrait at the 4th ACM Party For A Cause Festival on April 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for ACM)

Singer-songwriter Courtney Cole is CMT Empowering Education spokesperson for 2016.

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Remembering Merle Haggard: CMT Salutes the Country Music Legend

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The world lost a good one earlier this week, when country music legend Merle Haggard passed away on his 79th birthday. With 71 top 10 country hits, two autobiographies, a spate of movie appearances, and one single – 1968’s Today I Started Loving You Again – that has been covered by more than 400 artists, he left behind a decades-long legacy whose impact on music and culture would be hard to overstate.

CMT took notice. The day news of Haggard’s passing at his California ranch broke, the network aired CMT Remembers Merle Haggard, a special featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews, along with tributes from some of the biggest names in country music, including Miranda Lambert, Toby Keith, Florida Georgia Line, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Dwight Yoakam, Brooks & Dunn and Bobby Bare.
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All-New Installment of CMT CROSSROADS Brings Long-Awaited Pairing of Bob Seger and Jason Aldean

by Emily Beekman, CMT

CMT Crossroads: Bob Seger And Jason Aldean

When you take a legendary rock icon and a country superstar who’s at the height of his career, add in a stage, lights and two of the best bands around, musical magic is made.  Last month at The Factory in Franklin, Tenn., Bob Seger and Jason Aldean united for the first time on the CMT CROSSROADS stage for an end-of-the-year event that neither could turn down.   Read More

CMT Celebrates Second Annual ‘NEXT WOMEN OF COUNTRY’ Event in Nashville

by Emily Beekman, CMT

CMT Next Women Of Country

In the midst of one of the busiest weeks in country music, a few hundred people gathered at City Winery in Nashville, Tenn., for CMT’s second annual ‘Next Women of Country’ event to celebrate some of country music’s most influential women.  Hosted by Leslie Fram, CMT’s SVP of Music Strategy, and country superstar Lee Ann Womack, the event struck a chord with those in attendance with its purpose to empower the new generation of female artists in the industry.  Read More

CMT’s Cassadee Pope Treats Zenith Employees to Private Performance

CMT blog

Amid a whirlwind promotional tour of New York, Cassadee Pope, season three winner of “The Voice,” and star of CMT’s docu-series, CASSADEE POPE: FRAME BY FRAME, took time out of her hectic schedule to treat ad agency Zenith employees to a special performance at the company’s 299 W. Houston St. headquarters. Read More