Four Originals in Lineup Draw Viewers to CMT Party

CMT was hoping its viewers would party down with the network more often this summer when it launched its first four-night lineup of original programming.

The lineup officially debuted Friday, Aug. 8, with the season-eight launch of The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. It joined the network’s other summer entries: Party Down South on Thursdays; Dog & Beth: On the Hunt on Saturday nights; and competition series Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge on Sundays. The strategy has already fulfilled those hopes, delivering ratings dividends for the network.

Over the first two weeks of the four-night originals schedule, each series outperformed the network’s July primetime average of 351,000 viewers. Reality series Party Down South led the way, averaging 550,000 viewers. Senior vice president of programming strategy Katie Buchanan said CMT’s primetime gains during the second quarter 2014, when it was up 13 %, inspired the ramp-up to four nights of originals.

“It’s a time in our history where we warranted doing that — we have distinct franchises that are really working and it’s time to spread the wealth, so to speak,” Buchanan said. “It’s a very big point in our history because we’re speaking to the same type of viewer, but we’re giving them the opportunity to see different types of programming.”

CMT is also giving fans of its original summer shows the opportunity to watch an immediate encore of each original episode, adding to the overall audience take. The Aug. 8 premiere of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, for example, drew 382,000 viewers for its 9 p.m. premiere and an additional 246,000 for a 10 p.m. repeat.

“For us the show is working, so why not give the viewers two hours of that show and really drive home a particular show on its night?” Buchanan said.

CMT will scale its originals strategy back to two or three nights a week during the fall, to avoid competition from NFL and college-football telecasts, which strongly appeal to CMT’s core 25-54 audience. It will return to four nights of originals in January, though, with plans to bring back summer hits for a winter run.

“We want to get them back on the air as soon as possible and then launch new shows behind them,” Buchanan said. “It’s sort of our insurance policy: Take a hit that’s working and get them to season two and beyond, and use that to launch something that feeds our audience and takes them into the rest of the year.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.