Since Jayson Dinsmore came on board as EVP of development for CMT in Feb 2011, the net has added a second night of original programming and put more pilots in development than any time in the channel’s history. Here’s Dinsmore on broadening CMT’s audience reach, the appeal of redneck weddings and a peak at what’s in the hopper.
What were your goals when you first came to CMT?
My development team and I set out to build stronger relationships with the community. CMT historically has had quite a bit of success with shows that feature the blue-collar comedy guys, [for example] there are some shows in the redneck wedding world. While they’re very successful, it’s sort of defined the network. And while we aren’t abandoning them, because they’re hugely successful, we’re broadening the portfolio of it.
Are you trying to attract a different demo with the new shows?
We’re still developing a bunch—I would say—different development pots. But we found success right out of the gate with a show called “Sweet Home Alabama,” which is sort of a country version of “The Bachelorette,” set in the south.
What are these “development pots”?
“Sweet Home Alabama” falls into our version of the dating show. We have some character-driven shows coming out this weekend. One’s called “Bayou Billionaires.” It features a family in Louisiana who happens to discover their property is on the fourth largest natural gas deposit in the United States, so they became instantly wealthy overnight. A second show, which sort of plays off the brand “My Big Redneck Wedding,” is called “My Big Redneck Vacation,” where we literally took the families and moved them to the Hamptons for the summer. So it’s a bit higher concept than “My Big Redneck Wedding,” and we get a lot of fish-out-of-water comedy, again featuring a family that’s over-the-top hilarious.
We have some celebrity-driven series that have been announced this past week. We’re doing a half hour show with Melissa Rycroft and her husband Tye Strickland [produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions]. And I think they are a reflection of the CMT viewer. They believe in family and community and they’re very funny. Secondly, we have a show with Jennie Garth, whom our entire audience grew up with on 90210 and we couldn’t be happier to be in business with her.
How did Ryan Seacrest get involved?
We partnered them up together. We thought, Ryan is a premiere producer who’s at the forefront of pop culture everyday and we hope he does it again with our show. It’s a lot easier when you have a platform of 7 million Twitter followers and nationally syndicated radio show as well as a daily news program. He has many outlets with which he can reach and bring new viewers to CMT.
You tried a scripted sitcom, “Working Class,” and canceled it after a season. What are the challenges you’ve faced developing scripted TV?
The price points are a little higher than the unscripted space. And truthfully, it’s pretty hard to launch a scripted series just in terms of building awareness around an idea. Whereas you can achieve quite a bit of success off of a show called “My Big Redneck Vacation,” it’s much harder to build awareness for our scripted series called “Working Class.” I think it’s just simpler concepts with real people. [That] doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning scripted, but we have to be careful on how we approach it. We were very happy with “Working Class.” Unfortunately it just didn’t bring in the ratings we needed to offset the price point we were paying.
Do you plan to try scripted again?
We are absolutely developing in the scripted space. We have two projects that I’m not capable of speaking of currently, but they will be attached to big brands that build awareness on their own.
You recently began airing original movies. How have they worked, ratings-wise?
They haven’t rated as highly as we would like them to, but we’re not abandoning them by any means… [With] a movie that played well in theaters that we could acquire at a lower price, the familiarity of acquired movies certainly helps when people are channel surfing.
The CMT Music Awards are hugely successful. Are you thinking of incorporating more live programming?
The CMT Music Awards is the highest rated show of the year—it’s our Superbowl. My team will be developing a show to come out of that, because we need to use that platform to launch a series.
Is that in development now?
We have many things in development that could fill that slot, including additional music franchises. We’re certainly not abandoning music-based programming, it just takes a little longer when there are artists involved to get all your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted….We are continuing to develop live programming, but I don’t think it’s the priority. We’re not thinking of recreating “Total Request Live” anytime in the next six months.