Great American Country Network Unveils Rebranding, New Slate of Shows (Exclusive)

6:00 AM PST 08/24/2011 by Marisa Guthrie

The Scripps-owned channel will roll out a new tag line and unscripted series featuring industry superstars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert.

Great American Country (GAC) this fall will roll out its most robust original slate ever and on Sept. 1 introduce a new slug line – “living country” – designed to capitalize on the popularity of country music and its stars including Grammy-winning super group Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton, star of NBC's The Voice.

“Country isn’t just niche anymore,” says Sarah Trahern, GAC senior vp and general manager. “So we’re in a wonderful position.”

The Scripps Networks Interactive-owned cable channel, which is in 60 million homes, has built its brand on lifestyle and music-related programming with countdown and performance shows including Grand Ole Opry Live. The new focus – which will be supported by an aggressive marketing rollout and on-air graphics – will broaden the network’s slate with unscripted series featuring country music stars.

“While my passion is in music shows, what I think we can do differently are shows that highlight the artist in a different way, that gives our audience something separate,” adds Trahern. “They can go buy a ticket and see a killer concert. What GAC can do is give them that information and access to an artist that they can’t get themselves.”

The new slate will kick off Sept. 8 with a sneak peak of the new unscripted series Day Jobs, which has country music stars returning for a day of work at jobs they held  before they were famous. The first installment will feature Louisiana-born Trace Adkins, who actually spent three days working on an oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico. GAC has produced seven one-hour episodes of Day Jobs, which will begin airing regularly Sunday, Oct. 2 at 8 p.m., and feature three artists in each episode.

“Every artist in the show had to give us at least a full eight-hour work day,” explains Trahern. “So nobody just phoned it in and got the B-roll and got out of there. They all really worked at it. But Trace went above and beyond and gave us three days.”

Subsequent episodes will feature: Gary Allan working construction; Neal McCoy selling ladies shoes; Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman waitressing; Craig Morgan back in the military at Fort Campbell; and David Nail at a Missouri Dairy Queen, a job he was fired from after sampling too much of the product.

Trahern hopes to be back in production on a second season by this fall and she says stars have been clamoring to do the show despite the somewhat rigorous requirements.

Other series include Tom’s Wild Life, which bows Sept. 18, and features Tom McMillian – friend of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert and best man at their wedding – whose Kansas ranch serves as an unofficial getaway for country’s biggest stars including Shelton, Lambert, Ted Nugent, Andy Griggs, Josh Kelley, NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer and Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, who are in Lambert’s girl group the Pistol Annies.

GAC will also roll out six new installments of signature performance series Grand Ole Opry Live Saturday nights this fall. They will tape in September and October and mark the first time the show has returned to the Nashville landmark since it was refurbished in the wake of last year’s devastating floods. Trahern says she hopes to have a full schedule of Grand Ole Opry Live concerts on the schedule next year.

The network is also looking at possibly developing a sketch variety series around comedian Henry Cho, who has hosted multiple programs on GAC and will headline his own comedy special on the network Sept. 8.

“We are a country music and country lifestyle channel with country music being the filter for everything that we do,” says Trahern. “Our living country brand statement is a lot more accessible to the people in our audience. It brings them into the fold with us rather than talking at them.”

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