The Academy of Country Music Awards gave some Las Vegas pizzazz to CBS -- and bested the rival CMA Awards for the first time since 1987.
The ACMs, once an also-ran to the CMAs, drew an average 15.4 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen figures, up sharply from 13.1 million last year for its biggest total since 1998. The CMAs averaged 13.7 million in November, but have declined in audience each year since 2003, when they claimed nearly 21 million.
A few factors contributed to ACM's strong showing, says CBS specials chief Jack Sussman, including hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, key performances such as the pairing of legends Garth Brooks and George Strait, and a big marketing push that included renewed attention from the network's lineup of country radio stations, including WUSN Chicago.
"It was one of those perfect storms of great resources that came together that creatively and on a marketing level delivered a great evening," he says. It also didn't hurt that rival broadcast networks aired mostly repeats Sunday night, or that the awards have been scheduled in recent years during the NCAA Final Four weekend, an effective promotional tool.
How satisfying was it to beat the Nashville-based CMAs, which defected to ABC in 2006 and stayed there despite CBS' effort to woo them back?
"It was a very happy moment to wake up to," Sussman says. "We were at a tipping point this year, only the tip was bigger than most people thought."