CBS ‘Farm’s out benefit

Benefit concert moves to County Music Television

“Farm Aid,” the annual 6-hour benefit concert for family farmers, will move from CBS Cable’s the Nashville Network to its smaller sister channel, Country Music Television.

The charity concert, organized and hosted by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, will premiere Oct. 3 on CMT.

By moving “Farm Aid” to CMT, CBS Cable executives hope to build interest in CMT and encourage more cable systems to add the channel.

Tough competition

CMT, which has 42 million subscribers, recently has been dropped from cable systems representing more than 1 million subscribers to be replaced by cheaper competitor Great American Country. GAC has between 3 million and 4 million subscribers.

Despite added competition from Great American Country, Chris Parr, CMT’s director of programming, said the decision to run “Farm Aid” on CMT had little to do with the channel having been dropped. TCA Cable and Coaxial Cable have switched out CMT to add GAC throughout the two multi-system operators.

“It’s more of a coincidence that (Great American Country) is out there,” said Parr. “These are things that we’ve been planning for some time. You just don’t do things overnight.”

CBS mandate

Parr added that following CBS’ purchase of the 50% of CMT and TNN from Gaylord that it didn’t already own, the cable networks have been encouraged to be more aggressive in developing programming.

“When CBS, a pure media company, became our parent, we’re seeing significantly more focus on growing these networks,” said Parr.

The premiere of “Farm Aid” on CMT should significantly boost the country music web’s rating on Oct. 3, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Beginning in 1985, TNN has run “Farm Aid” eight times. In 1996, TNN averaged a 0.8 rating for the entire six-hour telecast, peaking at a 1.4. Last year, TNN also averaged a 0.8 for “Farm Aid.”

CMT averages a 0.2 rating.

On the uptick

Despite the switchouts for GAC, CMT has still managed to gain subscribers overall. Since last July, the service has grown more than 2 million subscribers.

“Farm Aid’s” premiere on CMT will receive a big promotional push on big sister TNN. The campaign will begin with “Farm Aid” receiving title sponsorship of a NASCAR race that will appear on TNN on Sunday, Aug. 30.

The NASCAR race, which will be televised live from the New Hampshire Intl. Speedway at Loudon, N.H., will be called the Farm Aid on CMT 300.

Over the years, Farm Aid has distributed more than $14 million to better than 100 farm organizations, churches and service agencies in 44 states.

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