In the formerly cable-only show’s first year premiering as a prime-time broadcast TV tentpole, the CMT Music Awards will have country star Kelsea Ballerini returning as co-host, joined this year by actor Anthony Mackie, CBS announced Thursday.
Ballerini is taking on hosting duties for a second straight year. In 2021, she co-hosted with fellow country star Kane Brown, who was then in his second year in the role.
Mackie, best known for his roles in Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise, most recently as the co-lead in the Disney Plus limited series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” is a surprise choice to host a country awards show, although he did present an award on last year’s telecast.
The CMT Awards have primarily been hosted by country music figures in recent years, but the show does have a long history of bringing in actors to share the duties. Sarah Hyland co-hosted with Brown and Ashley McBryde in 2020; prior to that, Brittany Snow, Kristen Bell, Pamela Anderson and Kathy Najimy had been drafted at various points.
The networks additionally said that nominations will be revealed March 16, a little less than a month prior to the show’s air date. It’ll be broadcast on CBS April 11 at 8 p.m., live on the east coast and tape-delayed on the west.
The announcement comes three days on the heels of Ballerini’s appearance on the Academy of Country Music Awards show, where she did a duet with Dolly Parton on one of the host’s new songs. That’s the country awards show that ran on CBS through 2021, but is effectively being replaced on the network by the CMTs, which are being described in a release as “Paramount’s signature country music tentpole.” (ViacomCBS changed its name to Paramount Global in February.)
“We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pair one of the biggest names in country music with one of the world’s most electrifying superheroes to host our biggest CMT Music Awards ever,” said executive producers Margaret Comeaux, John Hamlin and Leslie Fram in a joint statement. “Kelsea and Anthony are each wildly successful in their own right and, combined, bring mega star power that transcends the worlds of music, film and pop culture with a supersized fan base. We know this dynamic duo is the perfect pairing to bring our show to the next level as we reach our largest global audience ever live on CBS.”
Joining those three figures as an executive producer this year is Ballerini’s manager, Jason Owen of Sandbox Entertainment
The ACM Awards show aired on CBS through 2021, but the two sides failed to come to terms on a deal to renew their arrangement. That’s when the ACMs shopped their show shopping — ultimately ending up with a deal with Amazon’s Prime Video for a streaming-only, non-broadcast webcast — and what was then ViacomCBS elevated an in-house show that had previously run on CMT and other MTV networks to be its flagship network’s new signature country kudocast. A game of musical chairs transpired with scheduling, as the CMT Awards, which traditionally aired in June, were bumped up to April; the ACMs which formerly were broadcast that month, subsequently moved their show up to March.
The CMT Awards show was originally announced for April 3, but then another CBS show, the Grammys, took over that slot after being delayed from January, and the CMTs were bumped back eight days. The telecast will be based at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, with remote performances from other locations, after long having the much larger Bridgestone Arena as its home turf. No performers have yet been announced.
The CMTs differ from the other two major country awards shows, the ACMS and the Country Music Awards, in not having a membership organization selecting the honors but being fan-voted, from nominations that are decided upon in-house at CMT.