ABC has confirmed its renewal of with the Country Music Association for the CMA Awards, which TheWrap exclusively reported on Wednesday.
The new agreement carries a license fee of at least $22 million a year for a multiyear contract, according to two individuals familiar with the deal, which was possible because Disney could draw on funding from Hulu and Disney+ in addition to ABC. As part of the new deal, Hulu and Disney+ are expected to feature additional shoulder programming around the annual event, which is held every November.
The renewal, which includes specials “CMA Fest” and “CMA Country Christmas,” is through 2026. ABC has aired the CMA Awards since 2006.
Like all other award shows, the CMAs have suffered heavy declines in TV viewership, losing fully half of its audience since 2017.
Last year’s show drew a record-low 7.1 million in November, the first time it failed to hit double-digit viewership. From 2019 to 2020 alone the CMAs shed four million viewers. That’s a far cry from early in the last decade, when it drew 16.6 million viewers in 2013.
Given that landscape, the pricey new deal is all the more unexpected.
“Continuing our long-standing relationship with CMA is a top priority and opportunity—together, we bring unforgettable experiences to our audiences that capture the heart and soul of the country music community,” said Rob Mills, executive vice president, Unscripted and Alternative Entertainment, Walt Disney Television. “We look forward to delivering many more memorable moments with celebrated icons as well as aspirational artists and are proud to be the home for these incredible and distinguished specials.”
“Over the past 15 years, we have built a true partnership with ABC, and we are thrilled to continue our relationship through 2026,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA chief executive officer. “As television viewers are now consuming content in so many new and exciting ways, we are eager to work with the entire ABC team on creating additional paths to bring country music to audiences everywhere. As our genre continues to evolve and broaden, we look to this partnership as a key driver in expanding country music’s reach.”
The CMA deal comes as a competing country music award show, the Academy of Country Music Awards, is searching for a TV partner for its own event in April 2022. TheWrap reported on Monday of an impasse between CBS, the ACMs’ longtime TV home, and Dick Clark Productions, which produces the show.