News

GAC Pilfers Opry Live From CMT

9/07/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

Great American Country has a new signature series executives hope will serve as a calling card for added distribution.

The Jones Media Networks channel, now in some 25 million homes, secured the rights to Grand Ole Opry Live, the televised one-hour portion of the venerable country-music radio show from Nashville, Tenn.

The show has been on larger rival Country Music Television, following a shift a couple of years back from The Nashville Network, now known as Spike TV. It has been one of CMT's top-rated shows.

Beginning Oct. 4 with a Patsy Cline Tribute, GAC will present Grand Ole Opry Live
at 8 p.m. (ET) each Saturday night. The premiere will be followed by five encores—three on the weekend and a pair on Tuesday nights.

"We will have the Grand Ole Opry Live
for the foreseeable future," GAC president Jeff Wayne said of the multiyear deal.

Both GAC and CMT acknowledge negotiations with Opry owner Gaylord Entertainment had been lengthy. Neither side would reveal financial terms or comment on whether GAC had outbid its rival.

CMT, which has been scaling back video offerings in favor of more long-form programming, stuck to a statement: "The contract between CMT and Gaylord Entertainment for the Opry telecast has reached the end of its term. CMT and Gaylord Entertainment negotiated for a new term, but an agreement was not reached.

"CMT, seen in 70.4 million U.S. homes, will continue to launch new original programming that celebrates the history, as well as the future, of country music."

Wayne said GAC has added several million homes each of the past two years, but wanted something to kick-start further distribution gains.

"Networks need anchor shows to get to the next level — like Emeril
did for Food Network and South Park
did for Comedy Central. We needed something to take the next step and we believe this is the best vehicle for us."

Wayne, who wouldn't specify GAC's distribution goals or projections, said Grand Ole Opry Live
had helped spur CMT the past two years. "They had more growth, around 20 million homes, in the past two years with the show, than in the previous 10," he said.

Financial considerations aside, Wayne said GAC was able to convince Gaylord his network was the right fit, owing to "demographic compatibility. We both target adults 25 to 54. CMT is going after a younger audience."

Wayne also spoke to Jones Media's position in country music industry: It programs 420 stations with country music, or 20% of the industry, and has such popular syndicated fare as Danny Wright, Bill Cody's Classic Country Weekend
and Lia.

As such, he said there will be "lots of promotion and cross-promotions" for the show on those properties.

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