CMT's Upfront Message: We're Country To The Core

CMT brought a little bit of Nashville to New York City April 2 as Darius Rucker performed for ad agency reps and CMT execs declared that country music “remains core to our DNA.”

“CMT lives at the epicenter of the New Country Revolution -- the Nashville-bred wave of wildly successful artists like Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Florida Georgia Line,” said CMT President Brian Philips, referring to the way the music business positions the current generation of country-music stars.

Philips was addressing a group of New York-based advertising executives in midtown Manhattan, so he took pains to position CMT -- that’s Country Music Television, in case you didn’t know -- within the world of country music. “They fill stadiums,” he said of the country stars. “They liven up our channels all day and CMT Radio all night. 80 million adults hear these songs every week, and they live  the spirit 24/7. This music is their truth.”



For CMT, the upfront message seemed to be: Country music is growing in mainstream popularity, which is why CMT should be on any advertiser’s radar.

This theme was struck first by Cyma Zarghami, president of Viacom Media Networks Kids & Family Group (which includes CMT), in her introductory remarks. “CMT is one of only a few networks that has a specific audience and a brand filter that can apply to the whole channel and everything it does,” she said.

“We believe it is our opportunity and responsibility to deeply understand the audience and deliver content on all platforms that reflects their values … and that is a theme you will hear repeated often,” she said. “Right now, country is front and center in pop culture -- from ‘Nashville’ the series to Blake Shelton on ‘The Voice,’ Tim McGraw performing at the Oscars and so much more. CMT has a big opportunity to be bigger and broader.”

Apart from the apparent love and devotion that CMT’s audience has for country music, little else was said at CMT’s upfront presentation about the network’s target viewer.

The meat of the presentation addressed programming both new and returning. Anchoring the list of new shows coming to CMT are Billy Ray Cyrus, Kellie Pickler and Josh Wolf, a comedian who will host a late-night show produced by Chelsea Handler.

Billy Ray’s show is called “Still the King,” a scripted comedy series about a washed-up pop star who becomes an Elvis impersonator and eventually reunites with a 15-year-old daughter he never knew before. At the upfront, Billy Ray declared the show to be “amazing.”

“I’m a huge fan of CMT,” he said after he came onstage. “They’ve been in my corner since day one, and I’m thrilled to partner with them on this amazing project.”

Kellie Pickler also appeared to promote her new reality show with husband Kyle Jacobs: “I Love Kellie Pickler” is produced by Ryan Seacrest. Kellie and Kyle came on-stage and did a bit in which Kellie pronounced the word “boil” like “bowl,” apparently because of her Southern accent. “It’ll be like a modern-day ‘I Love Lucy,’ when you ‘bowl’ it down,” Kellie said. Whether this show attains the standard set by “I Love Lucy” remains to be seen.


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