04/03/15: CMT


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BEHIND THE SCENES at the Upfronts
The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a

Spring was in the air and the mood was appropriately upbeat yesterday at CMT’s annual Upfront presentation. “There’s a lot to celebrate,” Adam Steingart, SVP of Integrated Marketing, told Cynopsis exclusively prior to the event. “Our original series are the biggest in our history, appealing to our core audience and new fans alike. Plus, we’re producing more original content and music than ever before.”


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Cyma Zarghami, President of CMT parent Viacom’s Kids and Family Group, kicked things off on a candid note by saying she had “scratched her head” when she first heard she’d be charged with overseeing CMT in addition to Nickelodeon back in February. But, as she quickly found, “Nickelodeon and CMT have more in common than you think: They both have very specific, dedicated audiences.”

Country music, once a niche with a localized core of fans, has gained a more widespread following in recent years, thanks to broadcast series like Nashville and The Voice, which features country artist Blake Shelton on its judging panel and Tim McGraw’s recent appearance on The Academy Awards. Seems you can’t open a door these days without a country artist coming through it, which has in turn bolstered CMT’s viewership.

Brian Philips, President of CMT, said he hopes the “new country revolution” is behind the fact that the network now reaches 90 million viewers, and Jayson Dinsmore, Executive Vice President of Development for CMT, hopes to break the 100 million mark with an ambitious programming slate for the 2015-16 season that includes reality and late-night offerings as well as specials and miniseries.

CMT also has one scripted series, Still the King, in the works for 2016. The show stars Billy Ray Cyrus, who plays a washed-up singer-turned-Elvis impersonator. While it’s billed as a comedy, the clip shown yesterday was darker than black coffee and could never be confused with Cyrus’s Disney Channel hit Hannah Montana. “It’s an interesting premise, to say the least,” says Rachel Herbstman, a supervisor at Pathway, an arm of OMD. “I wonder if he’ll get Miley to make an appearance.”

As much buzz as Still the King generated, the series many guests seemed most jazzed about is Friday Night Lights, a recent acquisition. “It’s the best show. I used to watch it on Ovation,” says Johnny Franchetti, Manager at Mediacom.

With more original series than ever before, CMT sees potential for growth across all categories in the coming year. “In particular, we’re working closely with auto and tech companies who are taking note of our core and developing audiences and who see opportunities for new and/or larger integrations across all of our screens,” says CMT’s Steingart. “Simply put, we know our audience and can tap into invaluable behavioral insights to benefit our partners. Between our current roster of hits and specials, as well as our new slate, there are truly limitless possibilities for strategic integration.”
Party On!
VENUE Times Center, 242 West 41st Street

GUESTS 200-250 guests filled the auditorium’s red velvet seats for the presentation and performance that followed before heading out to the lobby for food and libations.

FOOD The event was catered by Great Performances, a local food-sourced caterer that utilizes most ingredients from its own farm in New York. Bite-size passed nibbles included braised short ribs with truffled potato puree and chicken and waffles with maple syrup and hot sauce.

MUSIC Darius Rucker performed live for the masses

SIGNATURE COCKTAIL Guests waited patiently in line as bartenders hand-mixed Blackberry Molasses cocktails, made with whiskey, mint and brown sugar, fresh blackberry puree, mint leaves and served in mason jars.
CELEBS Billy Ray Cyrus, Kellie Pickler and husband Kyle Jacobs, comedian Josh Wolf and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano, who’s featured in the upcoming limited series American Speed: The True Story of NASCAR

PREMIUM GIFT Olive and Sinclair chocolate bar in a custom box with Darius Rucker’s new CD, Southern Style.

WHAT MADE IT STAND OUT WAS….. Rucker’s low-key performance; seated on stage, he and two bandmates performed three songs, including his latest hit single, Hometown Honey. Just before showtime, a black backdrop on the stage was lifted to reveal a sunny courtyard complete with grass and tall birch trees.

Trends to Watch
CMT’s hit reality series Party Down South has attracted younger viewers to the network, and it’s clear CMT will continue to try to win over the coveted demo with series like I Love Kellie Pickler, slated to premiere September 18, in which the American Idol and Dancing with the Stars alum invites her inner ditz out to play with husband Kyle Jacobs by her side. The series, produced by Ryan Seacrest, has yet to begin filming, but the clip shown during the presentation featured several “Picklerisms” including her lamenting the fact there’s no southern Siri voice on her iPhone.

CMT also hopes to woo younger viewers with its first original late-night comedy series The Josh Wolf Show, executive produced by Chelsea Handler and kicking off June 11. The show will tape in Los Angeles rather than Nashville, and if the clip shown at the presentation is any indication, there will be plenty of laugh-worthy moments. (Highlights include Wolf getting a dance lesson from Lance Bass, eating a cactus and asking Chelsea to be his bandleader after two others turn him down.



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Just Asking…
Josh Wolf, The Josh Wolf Show

Guilty TV pleasure
. I love that superhero stuff. I like The Hobbit and Harry Potter-type stuff, too. Anything with a dragon in it and I’ll be there.
One thing that would surprise people about you
I HAVE HAIR!! I also have a gigantic forehead, which is why I wear a hat.

Kellie Pickler, I Love Kellie

Guilty TV pleasure
I love renovation and remodeling shows. Rehab Addict is the best.

Favorite reality TV star
The little girl Maddie [Ziegler] on Dance Moms. I fast forward through the adults arguing and go straight to the dance sequences.

Last thing you ate
Breakfast at the hotela hard-boiled egg. But I’m not leaving New York without a big slice of pizza.

Quote of The Day
“I’m not a country fan, but I think Kellie Pickler’s reality show looks adorable. She reminded me of Jessica Simpson in Newlyweds, but not as dumb.”Theresa Amrhein, Manager at Mediacom.

–Reported by Michele Shapiro

Coming Up in “Backstage at the Upfronts,” in your mailbox at 6pm!

CNN wants to break three new ad categories: tech, studio business, and travel, according to Katrina Cukaj, CNN EVP of Ad Sales.
The beloved Rainbow Room at 30 Rock will be the venue for USA’s press breakfast on Tuesday April 7th, with both talent and producers from three new dramas: Colony, Mr. Robot and Complications. Plus, WWE superstars!

Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

Cynopsis Ad Sales: Mike Farina | VP, Sales | 203-218-6480

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