Nashville has been saved. After weeks of negotiations and fan campaigns, country music-themed cable network CMT has picked up the country music drama for Season 5. I hear the order is for 22 episodes, in line with the full broadcast seasons the show produced for ABC. As expected, there will be a dual play, with Hulu, the show’s longtime SVOD home, continuing to make all Nashville episodes available to stream the day after they air on CMT.
The pickup comes less then a month after ABC’s surprising decision to cancel Nashville on May 12. The series’ leading producer Lionsgate TV immediately sprang into action. The show was pitched to streaming services and traditional networks with Kevin Beggs, chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group, spearheading the effort and company president Sandra Stern leading the negotiations on behalf of Lionsgate TV and Nashville producing partner ABC Studios.
It’s never easy to take a broadcast drama and make it work on a cable license fee, especially when it is a smaller cable net such as CMT. The dual streaming play on Hulu will help, but CMT, whose negotiating team was led by Sarah Levy of Viacom Kids and Family Group, stepped up in a major way with a supersized order by cable standards where seasons usually go for 10-13 episodes at a price that would make the show feasible for Lionsgate TV.
The acquisition of Nashville comes just days after CMT entered the original scripted series arena with a solid premiere for comedy Still The King, to be followed by drama Million Dollar Quartet in the fall. It is unclear when Season 5 of Nashville will debut.
“CMT heard the fans. The wave of love and appreciation they have unleashed for Nashville has been overwhelming,” CMT president Brian Philip president. “Nashville is a perfect addition to our evolving lineup of big music specials, documentaries, and original series. We see our fans and ourselves in this show and we will treasure it like no other network. Nashville belongs on CMT.”
The country music drama, toplined by Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, will continue to film in Nashville where it is set and CMT is headquartered. Nashville leading man Charles Esten and several other cast members will join CMT host Cody Alan to celebrate the pickup news in Music City later today.
The cast of the show is under contract for a couple of more seasons. It is unclear if all regulars will continue full-time. When budget adjustments are made as a series moves from broadcast to cable there often are trims, especially for a show with a large ensemble cast like Nashville.
“Nashville has long been a fan favorite show on Hulu and we are so proud to continue to make new episodes available for fans to stream the day after they air,” said Hulu’s Craig Erwich, SVP and Head of Content.
Lionsgate TV was so confident in its efforts to find a new home for Nashville that the studio opted to forgo the happily-ever-after alternative series ending it had in the can, going instead with the original cliffhanger ending in the Season 4 finale two weeks ago.
That same week, Lionsgate told investors that “our near-term plan is to get another season” of Nashville and that “they hope to talk about this show for years to come.”
The studio already has Season 5 mapped out, as it had funded a writers room led by new showrunners Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, who succeeded departing original showrunner Dee Johnson and will spearhead the new season.
“CMT and Hulu are the perfect combination for our iconic and beloved series Nashville and we want to thank the incredible fans for their unwavering support—#Nashies, you helped make this possible,” said Beggs. “We also want to extend our appreciation to the State of Tennessee, City of Nashville, and Ryman Hospitality for their unending support. They have been a key ingredient to the continued success of this show and we’re thrilled to extend our partnership for a fifth season.”
The recently wrapped fourth season of Nashville averaged more than 8 million weekly viewers across all platforms and ranks as one of television’s most DVR-ed series and a Top 20 drama among women 18-34. The series has spawned music specials, tours and 10 soundtracks, including a Christmas album, which have collectively sold more than one million album units and over 5 million single-track downloads to date. Internationally, the series airs in 82 markets.
“We always had faith that we would find a way to bring Nashville back to its devoted fans, and we’re very proud to be in partnership with CMT and Hulu to extend the life of this series,” said Patrick Moran, EVP, ABC Studios.
Nashville, produced by Lionsgate, ABC Studios, and Opry Entertainment, has devoted fan followings similar to other series that found new homes after cancellation including Longmire and Community.