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GAC Kicks Up Its Heels

12/16/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Looking to better forge its brand image, Great American Country will roll out several new series and specials, along with a new logo and on-air look over the next few months.

The moves come a little more than a year after E.W. Scripps Co. completed the purchase of GAC from Jones Media Networks Ltd. and are aimed at differentiating the service from rival CMT: Country Music Television, owned by MTV Networks.

“Great American Country is America’s mainstream network for the widest variety of country music artists, lifestyle and influence,” said GAC president Ed Hardy.

As part of the changes, the network, which now counts 40 million subscribers, also will move its uplink facilities from Denver to Knoxville, Tenn., later this month to take full advantage of operational and resource synergies with Scripps Networks’ other channels, Food Network, Home & Garden Television, Do It Yourself and Fine Living.

“Our whole goal is to basically bring it up a notch programming-wise and production-value-wise,” Hardy said, noting that GAC will soon unveil a new logo and consumer marketing campaign.

The network will continue to focus primarily on videos from country music’s top performers. Hardy said country artists are thriving on the music charts and that the genre is no longer a small niche format.

“It is today’s mainstream adult format and is no longer perceived as a redneck, blue-collar format anymore,” he said. “It has very broad-based and a lot of younger, hipper artists coming into it.”

Along with music videos, GAC will launch several new long-form shows, including The Collection, in which artists provide a behind-the-scenes look at their music videos, plus two new specials, Grand Ole Opry at Carnegie Hall and 40th Anniversary of the ACM Awards, according to vice president of programming Sarah Trahern.

The originals will join other shows launched earlier this year, including My Music Mix, where artists program the videos they want to see on their iPods; and interview show Offstage With Lorianne Crook.

“We’re remaining a music video-driven network, but wrapping it in celebrities and artists,” Trahern said.

Vice president of marketing Scott Durand contends that GAC’s heavy rotation of music videos provides carriers with an alternative to CMT, which he says has cut back on such fare, placing more emphasis on series like Cowboy U and Popularity Contest.

“It’s a great story to tell the operators that there’s such as distinction between us and our competitors that they need both to cover the breadth of the country market,” he said.

Music videos are also the main attraction for its women 25-to-54 target. “Females are still a more desirable target than males, but because we’re playing such a broad range of artists we’ll naturally attract some younger viewers,” said Durand.

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