Most viewers could be forgiven for not thinking non-fiction when they think of Country Music Television. The words ‘country music’ tend to spawn mental images of Stetsons, big boots and hillbillies. Yet it was that leap in logic towards factual that appears to be making all the difference at this Viacom outlet.
Since his arrival in 2004, CMT original programming and development VP Paul Villadolid has largely led the charge in the expansion of the net’s remit, bringing on original programming along the lines of Popularity Contest, Cowboy U, American Soldier, Man vs. Vegas, and others. But it was shows like Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team and Trick My Truck that have really helped the net gain ground.
In fact, CMT reports that when Truck premiered in 2006, it helped push primetime impressions up 27% over the previous year. And Variety reports that the move towards the sort of non-fiction usually seen on sister net VH1 has resulted in huge spikes in ratings, with primetime numbers in February up 44% – and perhaps more importantly for advertisers, up 73% in the critical 18-to-34 demo slice – over the same period in 2006.
As of January, Villadolid reports to Bob Kusbit, who entered the net in the newly created position of head of development. (The move marks a return to Viacom for Kusbit, who once oversaw development as an SVP at MTV.) Kusbit will now oversee Villadolid and the overall slate and looks, if anything, to be expanding the role of non-fiction in the sked, with one-offs like America’s Top Cowboy and Dale. Factual, it seems, is now at CMT’s heart… its achy, breaky heart.