Behind a premium content strategy anchored in original scripted series such as Waco and hit unscripted programs inherited from Spike, Paramount Network wrapped up its first month with strong ratings driven partly by surging female viewership. Ratings for the net checked in with a 50 percent primetime leap over its previous quarter (as Spike) in the key 18-49 demo.
Especially notable was the soaring viewership among women 18-49: an overall jump of 44 percent punctuated by a 274 percent eruption around the six-part Waco miniseries.
As Waco wraps up, Paramount Network continues to roll out its long-term slate of premium content, including the forthcoming Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner.
MTV’s ratings continue to grow at a torrid pace behind a programming resurgence that has revived beloved franchises and ignited new ones. As the net celebrates nine consecutive months of year-over-year primetime ratings growth – its longest streak in 18 years – MTV is keeping the programming fires stoked by announcing that the forthcoming Jersey Shore Family Vacation will reunite the original crew for not just a single season, but a second one as well.
The show’s April 5 debut follows a domestic reintroduction to the enormously popular Shore franchise in the form of hit Floribama Shore, which landed as MTV’s highest-rated series premiere in more than three years. Last night, the net also debuted a spin-off of sorts, Winter Break: Hunter Mountain, a mountain- and snow-bound reskin of the beachside Jersey barhoppers executive produced by Shore developer SallyAnn Salsano.
Building upon the significant Shore archive, MTV will broadcast four Road to Vacation specials that cut the most unforgettable Jersey Shore footage with new cast interviews. The first throwback will debut March 15, with a new edition airing every Thursday leading up to the show’s premiere.
Comedy Central’s most recent scripted series, Corporate, brings office humor to a dark, depraved place: Hampton Deville. The fictitious conglomerate is one of the largest corporations in the world, known for its multifarious production of goods—ranging from fresh produce to weapons of mass destruction. The company ethos is, on principle, devoid of principle, embodied by morally bankrupt, bagel-throwing CEO Christian Deville (Lance Reddick) to lower-level cogs Jake and Matt (aka “junior executives-in-training,” played by co-creators Jake Weisman and Matt Ingebretson).
The pilot, Facing the Void is a comprehensive look at dreary Hampton Deville, where “aggressive confrontational criticism” is encouraged and cost-cutting for the $5 billion corporation takes the form of “hierarchal” feeding at staff luncheons.
Watch a clip:
Hampton Deville is everything you don’t want to see in a company—either as an employee or consumer—but Corporate is everything viewers want in a dark comedy.
Corporate’s premiere on Jan. 17 was the highest-rated basic-cable prime comedy debut of the 2017-18 programming season. Critics are obsessed with the portrayal of modern-day cubicle carnage, too. Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd called the show “clever and cutting” in his review, and Bustle writer Sydney Bucksbaum vouched for its universal appeal. “Despite the fact that I’ve never worked a meaningless job at a giant corporation,” wrote Bucksbaum, “I found myself relating to Corporate in a way that I’ve never felt before while watching a TV show.” IndieWire’s Steve Greene lauded Comedy Central for producing one of the “most fascinating comedic experiments on TV.”
Corporate is at the vanguard of Comedy Central’s strong 2018 lineup. Mainstays Another Periodand Drunk Historyreturned earlier this week for a third and fifth season, respectively. Critical favoriteDetroiterswill return for a second season, as will The Jim Jefferies Show. Jefferies, an Australian comic, joined the network’s slate of biting late night hosts last year, adding his own sardonic flavor to Comedy Central’s trademark political satire. “You’d think I’d stop being surprised at how smart and funny Jim is about everything,” said Comedy Central President Kent Alterman. “I’m just glad we’re still giving visas to people from whatever s***hole country he comes from.”
On Thursday, Jan. 4, CMT’s beloved country soap Nashville returned for its sixth and final season. 1.6 million viewers joined them, a testament to the loyal “Nashie” fan base hooked by season five’s plot twists—including the death of a major character (Connie Britton’s Rayna Jaymes), police misconduct and racial profiling, song stealing and scheming, dramatic hookups and breakups…accompanied by melodic country harmonies, of course.
Nashville started 2018 with the highest ratings since its midseason five premiere. And according to Nielsen, Nashville’s debut was the night’s top social entertainment cable program—with #NashvilleCMT trending nationally on Twitter.
“The final season is truly the culmination of the incredible journey of each of these beloved characters,” said Keith Cox, president of development for Paramount, CMT and TV Land. “We want to give the fans, who fought so passionately to bring the show to CMT, a spectacular ending and great payoff.”
Watch a teaser for the next episode:
“The continued success of ‘Nashville’ remains a critical and defining part of our 2018 plan and a vital building block towards a strong future,” said Frank Tanki, general manager of CMT and TV Land. “Once again, the team has pushed themselves on all fronts and it’s absolutely amazing to see all these moving parts come together so smartly and loudly.”
The strong tune-in for the premiere follows a record-breaking 2017, in which CMT scored 53 consecutive weeks of ratings growth, underscoring the fact that Nashville is just one part of a diverse CMT programming roster that encompasses a bit of everything—from unscripted dramas to innovative digital content.
Music City, for example, is a docu-series created by famed executive producer Adam DiVello, who also helmed iconic MTV reality dramas Laguna Beach and The Hills.
Watch a teaser for Music City:
Music City is filmed in Nashville, with a cast of young, up-and-coming musicians struggling to make it in a cutthroat industry—much like The Hills, which gave viewers an inside look at fledgling fashionstas Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge and Heidi Montag as they tried to succeed in Hollywood.
Watch a throwback clip of The Hills:
This sort of unscripted docu-series has broad appeal: I was a rabid fan of The Hills, even though I didn’t share career aspirations as future fashion mogul Conrad (I tuned in for the personality conflicts, delectable drama and luxurious landscape), and I’ll probably watch Music City, even though I’m not a country music fan. It’s enticing to watch young professionals engage in a heightened state of reality, vying for their dream career (especially now that I’m around the same age as the cast members).
And the network is meeting fans on all platforms – CMT’s 2018 slate includes three new short-form digital series, exclusive for YouTube: How To Wear, Street Art Stories, and The Downtown Farmer.
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.
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 diverseidentities.”
– 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.
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:
Season four of Younger lifted off where season three stopped: Liza strafing Kelsey with the news that they are not fellow Snapchatting millennial strivers after all, on account of L being 40-plus with a kid in college and a divorced ex-husband rambling about somewhere in suburban New Jersey.
So Kelsey storms off. And Charles’ estranged wife emerges from exile with a tell-all book about their marriage even as he and Liza seem to be toeing toward some sort of inevitable for-real romance. And Josh – seemingly recovered from busting up Liza and Charles’ proposal-ruining makeout session at the end of last season – summons L to Ireland, where he intends to marry his girlfriend of one month, whom Liza had introduced him to.
And viewers loved it. More viewers than ever before, actually: Younger’s fourth season was the highest-rated and most-watched in series history, with double-digit percentage increases versus season three among key demos. Even more impressive, the show was the number one original ad-supported cable sitcom so far this year with women 18-49 and women 25-54. Fans pushed #YoungerTV to trend on Twitter all 12 weeks that new episodes aired.
All those fans will be pleased that TV Land has already committed to season five. And with season four ending with a cliffhanger of a missed call to Liza from Charles, some speculate that their romance may finally start blossoming. Show creator Darren Star hinted at as much in an interview with Hollywood Reporter’s Jackie Strause.
“There is a lot of story to tell there,” he said. “As writers, we’re invested in Liza and Charles’ story but at the same time, it’s not an open and honest relationship yet. There’s a lot at stake for Liza being truthful with Charles.”
The Younger crew visited Ireland for the season four finale.
A confession from Liza to Charles would, of course, crack open the central premise of the show, as her real age would be apparent to all of the main characters. But Star doesn’t think the show’s longevity is tied to Liza perpetually keeping her secret.
The surge follows the steady re-introduction of several legacy MTV programs that have been recalibrated to appeal to the social-, mobile- and digital-oriented youth of today: My Super Sweet 16, Unpluggedand, on Snapchat, Cribs and Beach House. And, coming soon: the hugely anticipated returns of early aughts mainstay TRL.
(Take a look at the Shawn Mendes performance that relit Unplugged – you’re not seeing things – there are no cell phones in the audience; the producers prohibited fans from bringing them into the theater, so they could simply enjoy the concert, 1990s style):
The ratings resurgence has not been entirely tethered to nostalgia, however, as a rejiggering of the network’s The Challengeand the launch of unscripted original Siesta Key (below) also fueled large audiences.
A 29-year-old drag queen from Brooklyn, New York known as Sasha Velour is lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s So Emotional. She’s gliding across the stage; a graceful avant-garde, bald ballerina.
Arms clad in opera-length bronze gloves, Velour vogues alongside fellow queen Shea Couleé, sauntering her hips and moving her lips soundlessly. Then, she craned her neck and began tugging at her wig. Pantomiming a seizure, she grabbed each scarlet lock to unleash a cascade of rose petals—just as Houston’s ballad reached its dénouement.
Watch the performance:
It was the season 9 finale of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Nearly 9 million people watched as Velour won the coveted title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, making Drag Race history for the most-watched finale. It was, in the eternal words of Whitney Houston, “So emotional.”
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.
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.