×

CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

Carrie Underwood returns as co-host of the Nov. 13 show, which has a new director in longtime VMAs helmer Alex Rudzinski.

The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for year 12, but Paisley is exiting, to be replaced in 2019 by the combination of Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire as “special guest hosts” alongside Underwood.

The move is surprising not least of all because McEntire has been a longtime on-again, off-again host of the rival Academy of Country Music Awards, going back to 1986. McEntire most recently hosted the ACMs out of Las Vegas this past April, for the second year in a row — a role she presumably won’t be stepping back into in 2020, unless the CMAs and ACMs are much more into sharing than previously imagined.

“As a fan of all 3 of these amazing women, I can’t wait to watch,” wrote Paisley, retweeting the CMAs’ announcement Monday.

For ABC and the CMAs, the change serves a couple of important functions. For one thing, it puts the world on notice that the Country Music Association means to be seen as being as proactively pro-women as the country radio format notably is not.

And, for another, it recognizes the need to shake things up after last year’s distressing ratings dive. While nearly all traditional TV awards shows have been down on a year-to-year basis, the traditionally blockbuster CMAs took a particularly big hit in 2018, with overnight ratings having the telecast down 34% in the demo and 29% in total viewers from 2017, reaching an all-time low.

The show also has a new director, Alex Rudzinski — a veteran of the MTV Video Music Awards, as well as the on-set director of recent live productions of “Rent” and “Hairspray” — taking over for longtime helmer Paul Miller.

Paisley and Underwood perfected their comic timing over 11 years on the air, in TV’s only reliable annual awards monologue (or duo-logue), which always involved some musical parody as well as banter. Paisley remains one of the most respected figures in modern country, as well as one of its sharper wits, but the fact that his last No. 1 at country radio was five years ago may have played into the decision to try something different.

Whether McEntire and Parton will play as big a role as co-hosts as Paisley did over the last 11 years, or whether they’re viewed as permanent additions, remains to be seen; in the announcement that went out Monday, their official “guest” status was reflected in photos slightly smaller than Underwood’s. A statement from the Country Music Association’s CEO, Sarah Trahern, suggested this might be a women-celebrating one-off.

“It’s an incredible honor to welcome Carrie, Reba and Dolly to the CMA Awards stage this year,” said Trahern. “In addition to awarding the year’s best and brightest in the genre, the 53rd Annual CMA Awards will celebrate the legacy of women within country music, and we couldn’t think of a more dynamic group of women to host the show.”

Robert Deaton returns as executive producer and David Wild is back as head writer for the show, to be broadcast Nov. 13 at 8 p.m ET/PT from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

Top nominations will be announced on “Good Morning America” August 28.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • An Emmy statue is displayed during

    Expect High Heat and Traffic for Emmys Sunday

    If you work in TV, are a fan of TV, or are in fact a TV yourself, the 71st Primetime Emmys promise to be a treat. Television’s biggest awards show takes place in Los Angeles on Sunday night, with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars set to appear as the entertainment community honors the best of [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun

    Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun Rights

    Viacom has sealed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for the cable rights to “Seinfeld” starting in October 2021. The deal comes on the heels of a blockbuster new deal between Sony and Netflix for the streaming rights to the beloved NBC sitcom that also begins in 2021. “Seinfeld” reruns have been a staple of [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content