After Bidding War, ABC Nearing Deal to Keep Country Music Association Awards

Miranda Lambert - CMA Music Festival - Performance - 2011
Frederick Breedon IV/Getty Images

Despite big pitches from top executives at CBS and NBC, ABC is nearing a deal to keep the ratings draw on its network.

After a three network bidding war, the Country Music Association Awards is nearing a deal to stay put on ABC.

The kudofest has been a valuable ratings driver for the Disney owned network, which snatched the show away from CBS six years ago. The award show nabbed more than 17 million viewers last fall, and lured another 7 million to a CMA music festival on a slow Sunday in August. ABC declined to comment on the show's status.

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In an fractured landscape where event television is among the few ratings draws, a program able to cut through was of extreme interest to NBC and CBS as well, as Vulture first reported. What's more, country music's profile has been raised in recent years, as evidenced this past spring by the success of such artists as The Voice's Blake Shelton, his wife Miranda Lambert and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery.

According to one insider, CBS made an aggressive push to get the show back on the Tiffany network. The net, which laid claim to the CMAs for 34 years, is said to have highlighted everything from its most-watched network status to its foothold in the music award show business (CBS airs both the Grammys and the Academy of Country Music Awards).  

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Over at NBC, the campaigning is believed to have gone all the way up to NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke’s level. The network, which is light on major award shows (outside of the Golden Globes), was willing to shell out big money and stress the synergistic potential of its many cable networks (from E! to Bravo to Style), said one source.

The race was believed to be between NBC and CBS, with ABC initially uninterested in shelling out as much as the CMA team was asking to re-up its contract. But according to an insider, the Disney network swooped in at the last minute, ultimately playing up the incumbent angle to success.