ACM Awards goes all-in on streaming with stadium show on Amazon Prime Video (2023)

Matthew Leimkuehler|Nashville Tennessean

Looking for the biggest bet in Las Vegas? Skip the roulette wheel and pass on theMarch Madness sports books.

Instead, open Amazon Prime Video, where the Academy of Country Music Awards roll proverbial dice on a stadium-sized show in Sin Citythat doubles as a groundbreaking production for major award ceremonies.

The 57th annual ACM Awards returns Monday, becomingthe first major awards event to cut ties with network television, opting instead for a commercial-free show that fans can find exclusively viaPrime Video. Free of advertising commitments and backed by one of the world's largest tech companies, ACM producers embrace streaming as an opportunity to reach a young audience, recalibrate viewing expectations and adopt a fast-rising medium for small-screen appointment programs.

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Set for a 7 p.m. kickoff inside Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium, Dolly Parton co-hosts the show alongside newcomers Gabby Barrett and Jimmie Allen.

For Damon Whiteside, chief executive officer of the Academy of Country Music, migrating thetentpole event to a streaming service points toward the future of award shows, he said.

"It allows us to innovate how we do the show and bring it right to the fans," Whiteside said. "We know fans are on streaming platforms. We've seen in research that theyfeel programs [that] are on streaming platforms seem more interesting to them than traditional broadcast. We felt this was a great opportunity for us to get a foothold in the future."

Or, as Parton told The Tennessean ahead of hosting:"I guess you can say that I like being at the cutting edge of things, so working with this new technology makes sense with that. It's exciting, and I'm looking forward to it."

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Moving to Amazon

Since the late 1990s, viewers flipped to CBS for the Academy of Country Music Awards, a West Coast-rooted operation launched in 1966that rivals the Nashville-based Country Music Association Awards.

CBS and the ACMs dissolved its longstanding broadcast deal in 2021, opening a door for organizers to dive head-first into live streaming with a digital heavyweight.In partnering with a subscription service, showrunners can bypass cable advertising pressure to "go directly to the customer,"said longtime ACM Awards producer RAC Clark, son of late media personality Dick Clark.

"Broadcast television is a passive viewing experience that's on for one night," Clark said. "We are on a streaming platform that ... will change the dynamic of how people see this show. We're not selling soap, we're actually going to the customer."

The move comes as award shows continue to lose eyeballs on traditional television. The ACMs drew 6.3 million viewers in 2021, down from 6.6 million in 2020, per Billboard. Those pandemic-impacted shows tumbled from nearly 10 million viewers in 2019, according to Variety.

And no genre appears immune to sharply-declining viewership. The 2021 Grammy Awards reached 8.8 million viewers last year, a 53% drop from 2020. In Nashville, the 2021 CMA Awards reached roughly 6.8 million viewers, similar to nearly 7.1 million it reached in 2020, but down from 2019’s estimated 11.3 million.

So, ACM leadership gambles this year on the place where eyeballs continue to grow: Streaming.

Between 2015 and 2021, cable-cutting grew dramatically: Seven years ago,24% of adults did not receive cable or satellite service at home; that number increased to 44% in 2021, according to a Pew Research study. Roughly 70% of those nonsubscribers balk at committing to cable because they can find desired content online, according to the study.

This year, theAcademy gagessuccess with factors beyond traditional ratings, Whiteside said, including social engagement andartist discovery.Live programming "has a remarkable ability to create buzzworthy cultural moments, and reach customers globally," said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios.

"We’re thrilled to continue to add to our offerings including Monday’s Academy of Country Music Awards, which we hope sets a new bar for live-streamed award shows," Salke said in an email statement.

With Amazon Prime Video, Whiteside saidthe ACMs aim for at leasttwo key demographics: Young viewers and international audiences.

Adults age 18-29 who receive cable or satellite services dropped from 65% to 34% between 2015 and 2021, according to Pew Research. Of that age group, 91% told Pew they opt out of cable because they can find desired content online.

On Monday, the show could reach itslargest international viewership to-date, with the livestream offered in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

"We want to continue to bring in younger audiences into the format, but also if there's ways that we can bring more crossover audiences— maybe those who don't traditionally watch broadcast," Whiteside said. "There's so many opportunities here beyond thinking about ratings."

And roughly twice as many people below age 34 find interest in live streaming content, compared to those age 35 and up, said tenured media analyst Mike Vorhaus.

"It's a video arms race," Vorhaus said, adding: "You have to be in this area for the younger generation. You've got to recognize it's going to grow."

Subscriber, subscriber, subscriber

In 2022, live entertainment — from NFL games to the Olympics and, now, award shows — plays a key role in subscriber content rivalries among hyper-competitive digital platforms, saidKeith Zubchevich, president and CEO of Conviva, a streaming analytics company.

"You have these big tech platforms who are looking for subscriber values and subscriber growth, they're looking at new ways to bring people on to their platform,"Zubchevich said. "One of the most popular [ways] is large live events. ... the larger the event, the better they'll have a chance of attracting new subscribers."

Still, room to grow remains for attracting viewers in real-time as subscription services navigate tentpole live events. On streaming service Peacock — a platform with notably lesssubscribers than Amazon — Super Bowl LVI brought in 11.2 million viewers, per MarketWatch, totaling roughly 11percent of overall viewership to the world's premier appointment program.

As of last year, Amazon Prime— a multi-faceted shopping-media subscription that includes Prime Video— hadmore than 200 million subscribers, per Hollywood Reporter.

And some may view country music audiences as late adopters to new technology. For an example parallel to television, audio streaming continues to gain ground with listeners, but terrestrial radio remains themarquee gatekeeper in building artist success.

Partnering with programs that could reach viewers who've yet to jump to digital "is genius for [Amazon],"Zubchevich said.

"Nobody's talking about late adopters,"Zubchevich said. "That's the only greenfield market left. Everybody else is fighting over the digital natives. ... there's this entire late adopter base that nobody's talking to."

'What the viewers are craving'

Pulling the plug on a network television relationship offered a chance for Clark and company to rewrite a playbook on what award shows could look like.

The shot they're calling? More music, less talk, Clark said.

They'll juggle a commercial-free two-hour show with four stages— three for performances plus a presenter podium. Producers plan to utilize stadium-ready broadcast technology, such as the spider camera often seen behind huddles during NFL broadcasts (Amazonexclusively hosts NFLThursday Night Football games next season).

Performers include Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Kane Brown, and Eric Church, among others.

"It's an opportunity for us to create what the viewers are craving," Clark said. "When you go a concert, you don't have commercial breaks. We're trying to recreate that excitement and experience of a live event that you can sit through and not be inundated with commercials."

And for burgeoning artists like singer-songwriter Brittney Spencer, opportunity outweighs platform. Ahead of Monday, Spencer said she logged hours rehearsing for the performance and planning on-stage attire.

Spencer performs with award-winning dup Brothers Osborne on a to-be-announced song.

"You put in the same amount of effort, same amount of intention; you just want to give it your best" Spencer said, adding: "This is my craft. I've been wanting to sing my entire life, so I give it my best shot every chance I get."

Those wanting more "talk" won't be left out, either. Amazon prefaces the show with a 60-minute red carpet livestream. Both programs offer opportunity for ACMsto align for artist discovery with Amazon Music, an audio streaming platform that plans to be front-and-center during festivities, saidRyan Redington, VP of music industry at Amazon Music.

Viewers can expect branded Amazon Music performances during the main program; leading up to show day, Amazon rolled out a podcast taking a "deep dive" into the 2022 awards. The audio streaming platform highlights a majority of artists represented at the show via Country Heat, a playlist and online station brand that surpassed 13 billion streams last October, according to the company.

Country music competes as one of the most genre-specific requests for streaming on devices paired with Amazon smart technology Alexa, Redington said.

"Over two decades ago, Amazon began selling physical music and developed a longstanding bond with the country audience, which has only strengthened with the launches of our streaming tiers," Redington said via email. "Today, country music fans love our programming and genre-specific initiatives, and the data consistently supports that claim."

Can viewers expect more award shows to stream exclusively in the future? Undoubtedly,Zubchevich said.

"Linear TV's days are numbered," he said.

And the ACM Awards feel "incredibly bullish" that this groundbreaking year should be the first of more to come, Whiteside said.

"We literally have a list three pages long of all the things we wanna do next year and the year after," Whiteside said.


Can you watch the ACM Awards on Amazon Prime? ›

How to watch the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards live on Prime Video. The Academy of Country Music Awards will be free to stream live exclusively on Prime Video and the Amazon Music channel on Twitch on May 11.

Will the 2023 ACM Awards be rebroadcast? ›

​​The full show will be rebroadcast on Friday, May 12, on Amazon Freevee — again, at no cost to viewers.

How can I watch the 2023 ACM Award show? ›

The 2023 ACM Awards will air live from Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas on Thursday, May 11 at 7/6c exclusively on Prime Video and the Amazon Music channel on Twitch.

Why is the ACM not being televised? ›

Like last year, CBS has still declined to renew its contract to broadcast the ACM Awards, with ceremonies again being a streaming-only event in conjunction with Amazon Prime. Here's all you need to know to watch the 2023 ACM Awards.

How do I get Amazon Freevee? ›

If you already have Prime Video, you can watch content from Amazon Freevee straight through the Prime Video app. Amazon Freevee is also available as a standalone app on a variety of devices, including all Amazon Fire TV devices, iOS and Android mobile devices, PlayStation 5, and many smart TVs.

How can I watch the ACM Awards on demand? ›

Academy of Country Music Awards will be available on Prime Video. Suppose you aren't a subscriber to Prime Video. Don't worry. Just sign up for a free trial to Amazon Prime, and you can watch Academy of Country Music Awards for free!

Where can I watch 58th ACM Awards 2023? ›

The 2023 ACM Awards air live tonight at 7/6c. Stream the ceremony on Amazon Prime Video.

Can I watch the ACM Awards later? ›

If you're not an Amazon Prime member, you'll just have to wait a day to watch: The full rebroadcast of the ceremony and performances will stream the next day for free on Amazon Freevee.

How can I watch the 58th ACM Awards? ›

The 58th Academy of Country Music Awards will stream exclusively on Prime Video. But, fans can watch for free.

Can you watch the ACM Awards on Peacock? ›

Watch ACM Awards 2023 With Amazon Prime Video's Free Trial

and Peacock, which offer just seven-day free trials, Amazon Prime Video's free trial is 30 days.

What channel is the CMA Awards on 2023? ›

It will be another house-rockin' awards ceremony when the 2023 CMA Awards ceremony kicks off in November this year on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 on ABC, beginning at 8PM ET live from Nashville.

What channel is the Country Music Awards on tonight 2023? ›

The show airs live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET and will also be livestreamed on Paramount+.

Will ACM be on Hulu? ›

The ACM Awards are available on Hulu with a Hulu+ Live TV subscription, which you can subscribe to for just $69.99. The plan comes with seamless streaming of channels Disney+ and ESPN+ as well.

Will the ACM Awards air again? ›

The 2023 awards will take place on Thursday, May 11, and will once again stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. The show will be available to stream at 8PM ET/5PM PT. In 2022, the streaming service provided coverage of the official ACM Awards Red Carpet Show beginning one hour prior to the show.

How can I watch the country music awards tonight? ›

You can stream the 2023 CMT Music Awards with a free trial from Paramount+. Plans start at $4.99/month for Paramount+ and $9.99/month for Paramount+ Premium, which includes ad-free streaming and live access to your local CBS channel to stream the CMT Awards.

What time are the ACM Awards on Amazon Prime? ›

Here's how to watch the streaming-only event. The ACM Awards will stream Thursday, May 11 at 8/7 c on Prime Video; prior to the big event, the red carpet pre-show (hosted by Amber Anderson, Priscilla Block, BRELAND, Elaina Smith and Kelly Sutton) will stream live on TVLine at 7 pm.

Where can I watch the 58 ACM Awards? ›

The 58th Academy of Country Music Awards will live stream exclusively, streaming live on Prime Video.

Can you watch ACM on Hulu? ›

The ACM Awards are available on Hulu with a Hulu+ Live TV subscription, which you can subscribe to for just $69.99. The plan comes with seamless streaming of channels Disney+ and ESPN+ as well.

Is the ACM Awards on Peacock? ›

Watch ACM Awards 2023 With Amazon Prime Video's Free Trial

and Peacock, which offer just seven-day free trials, Amazon Prime Video's free trial is 30 days.

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