New CMT Channel Returns to Roots

Mar 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

With CMT’s prime-time schedule increasingly committed to original series and specials, the Viacom-owned network is launching a music video spinoff channel-CMT Pure Country.

Brian Philips, executive VP and general manager of CMT, points out, however, that he considers CMT Pure Country as “more a brand extension.” Even though CMT has loaded up with more originals, “that doesn’t take away from [its] country music mission.”

But there’s no escaping that CMT had its highest ratings ever when it ran the “Miss America Pageant” in January. The telecast topped its “CMT Music Awards” show.

And the network has announced two other projects featuring Southern beauties-a docu-soap reality series chronicling Dallas Cowboys cheerleader tryouts and a bar-dancing competition series based on the Coyote Ugly Saloons, a chain of bars located around the country that inspired a movie in 2000.

The new digital network is the first off-net brand expansion for the 23-year-old CMT, whose fellow MTV Music Group sister channels such as MTV, VH1 and BET each have a spinoff (or two, or three).

Pure Country will launch on Memorial Day weekend in 16 million homes, rebranding the space formerly occupied by VH1 Country.

“We’re very anxious to get our hands on [the channel] creatively and put another channel together that had the same style and music expertise that CMT proper has,” Mr. Philips said.

He said the new channel will emphasize more traditional country music videos rather than the more contemporary artists favored by CMT. “It’s a perhaps a subtle distinction, but Pure will have more slightly more traditional and rootsy feel, a little closer to the country music core,” Mr. Philips said.

This is the second rebranding of a VH1 diginet within the last year. To secure distribution for its gay-themed network Logo, Viacom rebranded VH1 Mega Hits. Logo launched in 13 million homes last June and has since climbed to 20 million homes.

“It’s definitely a good move to use existing distribution to launch a new channel because it’s virtually impossible to get additional distribution for a new brand,” said distribution consultant Cathy Rasenberger, whose clients do not include MTV Networks.

Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for Horizon Media, said the decision seems smart.

“CMT has been around since before TNN and has certainly branded itself well,” said Mr. Adgate. “It’s a no-brainer to take over VH1 Country and rebrand it as another CMT, as VH1’s niche is not country music.”

CMT, now in 80 million homes, has been on a gradual ratings incline, showing growth over the last 15 consecutive quarters.