The Academy of Country Music Awards show, long broadcast on CBS until a split this year is no longer looking for a network home. In 2022, the ACMs will bypass broadcast television altogether and be available exclusively as a livestream on Amazon Prime Video.
The dramatic development in the ongoing game of musical chairs among country awards shows was announced Thursday by the streamer, the Academy and MRC, which owns Dick Clark Productions, the show’s producer.
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It’s by far the highest-profile awards show to go the streaming-only route, by far, in a move that may prove a bellwether for other such shows, as streamers look to pick up oft-pricey programming that no longer produces blockbuster ratings for broadcasters, with numbers falling dramatically year after year for all awards telecasts.
“We are thrilled that the Academy of Country Music Awards are first to take this giant step toward the future of awards shows with Amazon Prime Video,” said Damon Whiteside, CEO of the Academy of Country Music, in a statement. “This partnership, which reinforces our position as an innovative, progressive awards show, will deliver the broadest possible audience and, simultaneously, deliver massive value to our artists whose music lives inside this ecosystem, enabling fans to discover and stream music as they watch.”
Reps declined to reveal any terms of the deal.
The future home of the ACMs had been a subject of considerable suspense, since CBS and MRC failed to come to terms on a renewal after this spring’s broadcast, with producers reportedly asking for $20 million a year for rights to run the show. ViacomCBS made a major chess move after negotiations faltered by promoting an in-house show, the CMT Music Awards, from cable to broadcast status and scheduling it for next April, the same month the ACMs were expected to air.
MRC was said to be negotiating with NBC about the show, prior to this announcement. For all practical purposes, the ACMs couldn’t have gone to ABC, which recently reupped its deal for a rival show, the Country Music Association Awards.
Amazon Prime Video has not set a date or location has been set for the 2022 edition of the awards, which traditionally take place in Las Vegas in April, although pandemic conditions mandated date changes and a move to Nashville for the last two editions of the show. Prior to the Amazon Prime Video deal, the ACMs had announced a return to Las Vegas on April 21, 2022, but it’s not clear whether that will stick or not following this new development.
“We’re excited to continue to expand our content offerings for Prime Video customers by being the exclusive home for the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2022 and honoring the best in country music,” said Vernon Sanders, Amazon Studios’ co-head of television. “Reaching this milestone with our partners at the Academy of Country Music and MRC as the first major awards show to be livestreamed speaks to our dedication and commitment to continue to both entertain and innovate for our audience.”
As recently as six years ago, the ACMs had picked up 16 million viewers in live-plus-same-day returns for CBS, where the show had aired since 1998. Nielsen ratings for this past April’s telecast had the show bringing in 6.3 million viewers. That was heralded as good news, given that it was down only slightly from 6.6 million the year before, a less precipitous drop in this particular year than most other awards shows experienced.
With all the conjecture over where the ACMs would land, the possibility of an exclusive with a streaming service had not even come up in the public discussion — but after this surprise twist, it certainly will the next time a traditionally broadcast awards show is between deals.
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