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CMT Expands Base With Concert Tour

In an attempt to make CMT: Country Music Television's brand as strong in its genre as MTV: Music Television and VH1 are in theirs, Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks plans to increase the marketing muscle behind the network it took over last year.

"It's going to be a huge property for the company as a whole," said MTVN executive vice president of cable distribution and marketing Peter Low.

As part of the marketing push, CMT will co-sponsor recording artist Joe Dee Messina's 39-city U.S. tour. The programmer will also offer its affiliates promotional opportunities.

AT&T Broadband, for example, will help promote the tour's first stop this Thursday (Feb. 8) in South Bend, Ind.

"It's a good way to kick off" the local CMT network launch, said AT&T of South Bend director of operations Jim Peterson. Customers in AT&T's rebuilt local systems-about 30 percent of overall subscribers-began receiving CMT early this year; others will be added as more systems are rebuilt.

"There's certainly a niche for country-music TV," Peterson said.

CMT has about 44 million subscribers at present.

"Our objective is to get CMT into as many homes as possible," Low said. "We'd love to be in the 70 million level."

Low added that CMT is only seeking analog carriage. Asked if that would be a challenge, given analog's limited availability, Low replied, "If we can reach this huge, untapped audience and get this audience to buy [cable affiliates'] new products, they will want to be there."

Country music is the No. 1 U.S. radio format today, Low claimed, quoting statistics that said 40 million people tune into country music at least once a week.