Upfront 2014: CMT Slates Originals For Summer

Upfront Central

CMT announced an increase in original programming and unveiled the first projects from its news and documentary unit.

The Viacom network, which held its upfront presentation in New York Wednesday, said it plans to air more than 50 episodes of new and returning reality series this summer and that scripted fare could be on the way in the future.

New shows include Broken Skull Ranch, a competition show hosted by wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, that will air over the summer. Also airing this summer is My Dysfunctional Family, which features parents trying to mend their relationships with their teenage troublemakers. They join the previously announced Death Valley, which will premiere in the fall.

“We’ve had a tremendous year of growth at CMT,” said Jayson Dinsmore, executive VP of CMT development. “With more fresh content across all platforms, we’ve grown our audience and increased our social footprint to over 10 million active users. And by engaging our audience on a deeper, personal level and connecting with them beyond the linear channel, we’re laying the foundation for the next generation of loyal CMT viewers.”

While what CMT showed media buyers was reality programming, the network is open to scripted programming.

“We’re looking at several different projects. One is a multi-night miniseries. We’re looking at a movie of the week. And we’re starting to look at single-camera half-hour comedies and one-hour dramas,” Dinsmore said in an interview. “We’d love to have Justified on our channel. There’s no reason why that show shouldn’t be on CMT.”

Dinsmore said scripted is not a priority, but deals are in the works. “I think we probably will come out of the gate with a TV movie, back door pilot or one of those premium cable miniseries,” he said.

One project being discussed would be a period piece that would feature some of the iconic stars of the music business, he said. If negotiations work out, it could be on the TV in 18 months to two years.

Dinsmore would also like to put a comedy on the networks. “Comedy is the thing that really works best on our channel,” he said. Whether comedy or drama, “the number one filter we put all our ideas through is it needs to be fun. But fun can mean many things. It can mean hilarious but it could also mean a roller coaster that leaves you on the edge of your seat. And many of the things we have in the pipeline do leave you on the edge of your seat.”

CMT aired a sitcom, Working Class staring Ed Asner, in 2011.

CMT said the inaugural projects in development from its news and docs unit included work with producers including Ridley Scott and Morgan Spurlock.

Scott’s project is called Promiseland, which celebrates the American farmer. Spurlock’s project is called Freedom and asks the question "What does it mean to be ‘free’ in America?”

Other documentary projects in development include They Called Us Outlaws from Eric Geadelmann and Mark Johnson, and Urban Legend: When A Nation Went Country, from John Dorsey and Andrew Stephan.

“We’re fulfilling our promise to create a CMT News & Docs division with a slate of bold and compelling stories that reflect big personalities and monumental events that helped define America, our music and our spirit,” said Dinsmore. “We’ve partnered with some of the most respected and visionary filmmakers working today, all charged with producing unique documentaries through an authentic and distinctive lens.”

CMT said that the series Party Down South and Dog and BethOn The Hunt will return this summer.

The network also said it has greenlit a ninth season of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, CMT’s longest-running reality series. Other returning series include My Big Redneck Family and Swamp Pawn.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.