CMT and the Modern Awards Show: Multiplatform, Multiday and Hard to Quantify

CMT and the Modern Awards Show: Multiplatform, Multiday and Hard to Quantify

When this story was hitting inboxes Monday night as part of the weekly Billboard Country Update newsletter (subscribe here), the CMT Music Awards were already underway on CBS, having jumped for the first time from their original home on a cable channel to a live broadcast on a major network.

The awards will still have a place on CMT: an extended version, featuring an additional half-hour of material captured during the live telecast, will be featured in a re-airing on Friday (April 15).

But the CMT awards — much like the Academy of Country Music Awards, which Amazon Prime carried March 7 after years of association with CBS — are also emblematic of the altered nature of the music-trophy genre. Awards shows originated as appointment events: They aired at a specific time on a single terrestrial TV network; viewers who missed the broadcast were plum out of luck.

The modern awards show, by contrast, is a more fluid proposition, aptly experienced on multiple platforms at a variety of times. With the ACMs’ shift to a livestreamed ceremony, the base event is no longer confined to TV. The CMTs are being carried simultaneously on CBS and Paramount+. And thanks to DVRs, re-airings and on-demand streaming, it’s possible for the viewer to watch many awards rites — or even specific segments of the shows — when they want on the device they want.

“All the different platforms that we have access to only make the show that much bigger and more exciting and give us the ability to share more information,” CMT Awards executive producer Margaret Comeaux says. “You can tailor content to meet the needs of that platform.”

Particularly in an era of sinking TV ratings, networks have increasingly looked for breakout moments and/or unique collaborations to promote viewership. The CMT event — co-hosted by actor Anthony Mackie, Kelsea Ballerini (appearing remotely after testing positive for COVID-19) and last-minute on-set fill-in Kane Brown — had plenty of those attractions, such as The Judds’ first awards show reunion in two decades and a number of collaborative mashups: Mickey Guyton and Black Pumas, Thomas Rhett and Riley Green, Jason Aldean and Bryan Adams, and Jimmie Allen, Monica and Little Big Town. (Thanks to its move from cable to network TV, ratings for the CMTs were predictably way up from 2021.)

But those kinds of pairings are no longer just preshow promotion opportunities. The ACM’s YouTube channel currently boasts 14 three- and four-minute clips featuring the individual live performances from the show weeks after its airing, including Aldean’s duet with Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and a blend of Parmalee, Blanco Brown and Brooke Eden. And 30-second clips from the performances were likewise shared with artists’ teams during the show for use on social channels to drive tune-in and/or chatter about the event.

“We were up over 50% this year from last year with our social engagement,” says ACM CEO Damon Whiteside. “We know people are on their phones, engaging in social media, talking about the performances and who’s winning and all of that. So mobile is definitely a big part of the ecosystem.”

Awards shows’ transition to a multiplatform event arguably took flight beginning around 2010-2012, when viewers began watching shows on traditional TV while keeping up with their friends’ snarky commentary on Twitter.

“That is how I watch things nowadays,” Comeaux says. “You watch things with your phone in your hand or your computer open or whatever that [device] happens to be. I do think it changes the experience at home for the audience, but I don’t know that it truly changes how I produce an awards show for television.”

The ACM’s association with Amazon offered an opportunity to consolidate multiple activities around one home platform. The academy worked with Amazon to build pages that helped make information and merchandise from every participating artist accessible during the acts’ performances. In some cases, it allowed users to buy clothing and other items worn during the two-hour event.

“When you’re watching something on the broadcast network, you have to have your phone with you and you’re chatting on socials, but you’re having to go to different places to look up information about the artist or go find their music,” says Whiteside. “In this particular case, we had it all centralized within the Amazon platform.”

Embracing the expansion of awards across both platforms and the calendar, CMT formally turned this year’s show into the anchor of a broad package by declaring CMT Music Awards Week, with at least one special on the cable outlet daily April 9-15. Additionally, the company established a new social media contest on Instagram, with heritage performances by Alan Jackson, Parton, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Sara Evans, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift competing for trending comeback song of the year.

“That’s the advantage to having different platforms,” Comeaux says. “We were able to lean into that and do some exclusives on that side.”

Ultimately, the awards shows are in a state of transition. Nielsen ratings are routinely down in network viewership, although the ability to watch shows later — or, at least, in pieces — suggests that the decline is not as sharp as it appears from TV-only numbers. With dozens of artists sharing their own performances across multiple platforms for several days, or with the ACMs airing in a reported 235 countries, even the awards producers are at a loss to develop an accurate big-picture sense of their shows’ consumption.

“People aren’t viewing it all in one place and all in the same way anymore,” says Whiteside. “There still is not a great measurement system out there that really holistically captures all of those platforms.”

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CMT and the Modern Awards Show: Multiplatform, Multiday and Hard to Quantify When this story was hitting inboxes Monday night as part of the weekly Billboard Country Update newsletter (subscribe here), the CMT Music Awards were already underway on CBS, having jumped for the first time from their original home on a cable channel to a…