What Ever Happened to Country Music on the Nashville Network?

THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 27, 2000 | Go to article overview

What Ever Happened to Country Music on the Nashville Network?


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- These days, the folks at TNN tend to downplay the words behind their abbreviation: The Nashville Network.

No wonder. Country music no longer dominates the cable station built on the backs of Nashville's singing stars.

There's wrestling on Friday nights, action shows on Wednesday nights, old TV movie-of-the-week tear-jerkers on Mondays nights.

Reruns of Matt Houston, Alice and The Dukes of Hazzard dominate the daily schedule.

The original programming is a mix of roller derby, bowling, rodeo and the weekly Eighteen Wheels of Justice (a combination of Knight Rider and The Fugitive), with G. Gordon Liddy as the bad guy.

"We kind of take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the whole thing," said Brian Hughes, head of TNN programming. "This is not brain surgery. We're in the business of entertaining people, and it's kind of lighthearted entertainment."

During its first two decades, TNN was the network that featured low-key songwriter Bobby Bare talking shop with his famous friends, Ricky Skaggs playing hot licks at the Ryman Auditorium, and Ralph Emery having meandering conversations with country stars on Nashville Now.

The programming shift, which got under way in earnest in January, was the result of several factors that threatened the network. Chiefly, the audience for the country music programming was older than advertisers prefer.

There was also a growing problem getting top country music stars to appear on TNN shows and the need for TNN to differentiate itself from sister network CMT (Country Music Television).

"I think to a great degree this network was taken for granted (by the country music industry) for a long, long time," Hughes said.

"I don't mean any disrespect with that.... This surge of popularity for country music beginning in the late 1980s, it opened up avenues for people in network television, syndicated television and other cable outlets. …

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