Ralph Emery, host of the Nashville Network’s nightly live talkshow “Nashville Now,” will step down Oct. 15, ostensibly to devote more time to his own TV production company, which is slated to deliver three shows to the channel in 1994.

However, TNN sources say the retirement was actually spurred by the show’s slipping ratings and viewer demographics, which skew older than most TNN shows.

Even so, “Nashville Now” has been TNN’s second-highest rated program, seen by approximately 15 million cable households per month. The show is the channel’s anchor for each weeknight, and the move to attract more youthful viewers will bring TNN closer with the young look sweeping country music.

At a Wednesday press conference in Nashville, Emery and TNN exex sought to downplay notions that the host was being bumped aside. Emery, 60, a veteran Nashville figure who gained fame in the ’50s and ’60s as an all-night country DJ , has hosted “Nashville Now” since its inception in 1983.

There has been speculation in recent months that something would be done to the show to curb falling ratings. In February, Emery gave up hosting Monday night’s program, and young artists guest-hosted. At the time, Emery insisted he wasn’t going to retire.

But the tinkering didn’t work, according to channel sources, because older fans stopped watching when Emery wasn’t on and younger fans didn’t tune in. TNN programming chief Paul Corbin said Wednesday that the ratings drop and Emery’s departure were coincidental.

TNN is already floating two names for replacement candidates: syndicated talkshow host Charlie Chase and singer Pat Boone.