CMA and ABC Score with “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock”

By Bob Doerschuk

On an unusually competitive night of television programming, ABC achieved approximately the same strong statistical results with the seventh annual broadcast of “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” as it had in 2009.

Where figures compiled by Nielsen Media Research for the program in 2008 were 3.3/5, they rose in 2009 to 4.6/7 and reached 4.0/7 for this year’s special, which aired on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 8-11PM/CT. Measured against programming for the week, “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” placed at No. 18 for viewers overall as well as for the coveted Adults 18-49 category. The special was ABC’s third-best performer of the week in total viewers with 6 million.

Talent is the program’s heaviest artillery. Hosted by Tim McGraw, this year’s lineup included Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Billy Currington, Alan Jackson, Jamey Johnson, Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Justin Moore, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, Uncle Kracker, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Zac Brown Band.

More than 65,000 fans from 50 states and 26 nations streamed to Nashville in June to attend the four-day Festival. Nightly performances at LP Field and at select venues in town were filmed by Executive Producer Robert Deaton and his crew, who then tackled the formidable challenge of weaving these special moments into a one-night network TV experience. It began with reference to the flood that had inflicted significant damage throughout Nashville in early May — just over a month before the Festival began, followed by Urban’s tribute to the spirit of Music City as it recovered from the disaster.

“Quite frankly, we hadn’t planned on doing anything,” Deaton admitted. “But it was Keith’s idea to do ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ as a tribute to the people of Nashville. Then after his performance, I started thinking it was actually about more than the flood; it was about how people responded to it. And Keith’s performance became like an anthem, especially with the flood visuals. So even though we normally start the show big, with lots of tempo, I decided to open with this, because that spirit is what defines us this year.” The public responded. Nielsen SoundScan data reported that for the week ending Sept. 5, current album sales rocketed upward over numbers for the previous week for many of the artists it had featured, including McGraw (47%), Underwood (31%) and Moore (31%). Significant upticks were also measured for featured performers in digital singles of songs performed on the special, including McGraw’s “Southern Voice” (82%), Shelton’s “Hillbilly Bone” (50%), Underwood’s “Last Name” (63%), Moore’s “How I Got to Be This Way” (44%) and Rascal Flatts’ “Summer Nights” (40%).

Interest in the broadcast was kindled through a series of “All Access” Webisodes created by ABC Digital Media and posted on http://www.ABC.com and other Web sites in the weeks before the broadcast. These include a visit with McBride, who describes a special outreach to fans that she hosted in her studio; a trip with Julianne Hough to sign autographs at the Greased Lightning Fan Fair Hall; an onstage “rock, paper scissors” contest between Luke Bryan and Jake Owen to determine who plays next at a Downtown honky tonk; a bus tour conducted by Gloriana; and a sneak preview of Swift’s network premiere of her single “Mine” before an intimate gathering of fans. The complete All Access series can be seen at http://www.YouTube.com/CountryMusicAssoc.

And during the broadcast itself, viewers got involved in the second annual CMA Music Festival Tweet ‘n’ Greet. They could monitor Twitter commentaries and Facebook page updates from artists featured in the show (“Are you guys watching? I’m on, jamming out right now” — Urban;) (“Could watch Brad Paisley play guitar all night. Will hit Tivo and watch him again and again” — Dave Haywood, Lady Antebellum) or post their own thoughts (“Don’t bother me. I’m watching CMA Fest.” — @bree621). The Festival broadcast ranked Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 8 on Twitter’s Top 10 Trending Topics for the night.

CMA Music Festival is the ultimate destination for Country Music fans from around the globe, featuring nonstop concerts, autograph signings, celebrity events and more. In 2011, Nashville’s signature music event will celebrate 40 years of providing unique artist and fan interactions since starting as Fan Fair in 1972. Plans are underway for surprises and special events to commemorate the occasion.

© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

All Photos Provided by Country Music Association

Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Jamey Johnson perform “Bad Angel.” photo: Nick Bumgardner/ABC

Lady Antebellum performs for fans. photo: Nick Bumgardner/ABC

Rascal Flatts hangs out backstage before their LP Field performance. photo: Jon LeMay/ABC

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