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CMT is teaming with two of country music’s biggest singers for its next series.
The Viacom-owned cable network has picked up Kellie Pickler’s forthcoming daytime talk show produced by Faith Hill, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Co-hosted by Pickler and TV personality Ben Aaron, Pickler & Ben will welcome celebrities, tastemakers and experts and cover topics including entertaining, home design and cooking. The show will be recorded in Nashville in front of a live studio audience at a modern farmhouse-like set.
CMT will re-air the show daily beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET, one day after the daytime program makes it official debut in 38 markets across the country. The added push will help Pickler & Ben reach a national audience with CMT’s reach of 74 million households.
The acquisition also expands Pickler’s presence on CMT, where she has headlined the Ryan Seacrest-produced reality series I Love Kellie since 2015. The docu-comedy recently launched its third season on the network.
Hill executive produces Pickler & Ben with The Oprah Winfrey Show veteran Lisa Erspamer and Hill’s manager Jason Owen in partnership with Scripps. Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution handles national distribution for the series.
“The combination of Faith serving as producer and Kellie as one of the co-hosts makes Pickler & Ben a natural fit for CMT,” said CMT and TV Land general manager Frank Tanki. “The reciprocal partnership with Scripps will allow the show to reach a national audience, while providing us new country lifestyle programming for our fans.”
The Nashville-based series has been in the works with Hill and Pickler since 2015. “Nashville is way more than country music or country — it’s a very aspirational city that’s very hip and cool,” Erspamer told THR in 2015.
She said she hoped that would help the series stand out from its New York- and Los Angeles-based competitors. Coincidentally, reaching middle America has become a bigger priority for networks in recent months following Donald Trump’s surprise election victory over Hillary Clinton. Since November, more networks have been looking to appeal more to the red states (see: the upcoming onslaught of military shows and ABC’s Roseanne revival).
“We spend so much time programming to New York and Los Angeles, and we forget that there’s this whole vast world in between,” Erspamer said.
The launch of Pickler & Ben also comes after daytime TV has struggled to launch a hit celebrity-based talk show in recent years. Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, Queen Latifah and Meredith Vieira are just some of the names that have seen their daytime entries come and go. However, Harry Connick Jr. just kicked off the second season of his daytime series, Harry.
The acquisition also comes amid changes at CMT. The cabler has pushed further into original programming with Nashville as well as drama Sun Records and comedy Still the King. However, despite posting its ninth consecutive month of ratings growth in the adults 18-49 demo, CMT has been hit by the larger restructuring afoot amongst Viacom’s many cable properties. Network president Brian Philips departed in June, followed by programming chief Jayson Dinsmore earlier this week. Tanki, who was promoted to general manager at TV Land, saw his duties expand again to include CMT.
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