'Nashville' to End With Season 6 on CMT

CMT's Nashville is coming out for one final curtain call.

The Viacom-owned cable network on Friday announced that its country music scripted drama's upcoming sixth season will be its last. The Hayden Panettiere and Charles Esten starrer will return on Thursday, Jan. 4.

Created by Callie Khouri and produced by Lionsgate Television and ABC Studios, Nashville aired its first four seasons on ABC. The Disney-owned broadcaster canceled the Connie Britton starrer after season four. The decision was considered a shocker after Lionsgate hired thirtysomething producers Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick to serve as showrunners on a potential fifth season (replacing Dee Johnson). Lionsgate and ABC Studios began shopping the drama after the cancellation, with country music destination CMT surfacing as a natural extension of the show and landing first-run episodes of Nashville as part of a deal that gave Hulu SVOD rights to the series. Most (but not all) of the cast returned, with Britton ultimately killed off the show within its first handful of episodes on CMT.

“All of us on Nashville are so incredibly grateful to the show's fans, who convinced CMT to give us a chance to keep telling the story of these remarkable characters,” Herskovitz said in a statement. “And we want to return the favor with a final season that celebrates all the joys and passions, twists and turns — and amazing music! — that made Nashville such an exciting journey for the last six years.”
 
Produced by Lionsgate Television and Opry Entertainment, Nashville will wrap with more than 100 episodes, millions of singles/albums sold and multiple music tours in the U.S. and U.K.
 
"After more than 120 episodes of unforgettable television, we believe that creatively it is time for the series to come to its triumphant close at the end of the upcoming season," said Kevin Beggs, chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group. "We’re very proud of our incredibly talented cast and crew, the creative brilliance of our showrunners and the loyal support of our great partners at CMT, Hulu and ABC Studios. Most importantly, we owe a special debt of thanks to the Nashville fans who propelled the series to an incredible run. We owe it to them to make the sixth season the most exciting and memorable of all.”
 
Nashville was renewed for a shortened 16-episode sixth season after helping to bring new viewers to CMT. While the series' ratings have been a boon to niche cable network CMT, its overall haul (2.1 million viewers with seven days of DVR) is down considerably from its run on ABC. And while Viacom does not have an ownership stake in the show, Nashville has served its purpose for CMT by bringing in new viewers to the cabler. 

Once Nashville wraps its run on CMT in 2018, the network will exit the scripted originals space that had included Billy Ray Cyrus' Still the King and mini Sun Records (which aired after Nashville's fifth season). The cabler is still home to syndicated repeats including Last Man Standing, Reba, Roseanne, Raising Hope and new arrival Mom.

The move to exit the scripted originals space comes as Viacom has been focused on six key brands — Paramount Network, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. — as part of CEO Bob Bakish's larger plan to reinvigorate the media behemoth. Kevin Kay recently added oversight of CMT, which saw president Brian Philips exit the cabler following a 16-year run. In an executive suite interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kay — who oversees Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT — said there was "a lot of work to do" on the latter. "The longer-term play for CMT is to be strategic about how we can use CMT and build a business there that's not just about linear TV," he said. "Is there a concert business there? Is there more of a music play with CMT? Is there some other partner that we want to think about for CMT strategically? … CMT was going down a path of lots of scripted programming because they had Nashville and they could not really afford it. So, we're keeping Nashville and moving into nonscripted, where we can develop quicker and maybe have some hits and definitely be more efficient financially."

CMT becomes the latest cable network to leave the scripted originals space as competition (and prices) continues to increase in the so-called "Peak TV" era of more than 500 programs, along with A&E, which exited after Bates Motel wrapped its run; WGN America, which, following its acquisition by Sinclair, is now home to low-cost imports; and Viacom's VH1, which saw its remaining scripted shows move to BET.

Nashville's final 16-episode season will be split in two, with the season finale airing in the summer.