This is big, y’all: Amazon’s Prime Video has landed rights to the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards, marking the first time a major entertainment-industry kudocast will air exclusively on a streaming platform. The one-year deal comes after CBS and ACM producer Dick Clark Productions broke off talks on a new licensing arrangement for the show earlier this summer, ending a 23-year run for the show on the Eye network. Amazon’s announcement of the deal only mentions Prime Video, but it would be logical for the company to also use the ACMs to funnel audience to its free, ad-supported IMDb TV platform, thus allowing a broader audience to watch next year’s shows and also avoid criticism of the awards being put behind a paywall. IMDb TV is fully integrated into Prime, so Prime customers would barely notice the difference were that to happen. Amazon could in theory also simulcast the ACMs on its Twitch platform, further aggregating additional audience.
Amazon has been aggressively moving to steal away some of broadcast TV’s last remaining advantages over streaming. It has a deal in place to become the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football next year, and this fall, syndication queen Judy Sheindlin (a.k.a. Judge Judy) moves to IMDb TV with what could be a daily court show. “Reaching this milestone with our partners at the Academy of Country Music and MRC as the first major awards show to be livestreamed speaks to our dedication and commitment to continue to both entertain and innovate for our audience,” Vernon Sanders, co-head of television, Amazon Studios, said in a press release announcing the acquisition.
The pact with Amazon is also a big step for Dick Clark Productions and its parent company MRC, the studio behind Netflix’s trailblazing House of Cards. Its award show business has been threatened by the declining ratings for all televised ceremonies, with networks making it clear they won’t keep paying huge sums for rights. While the Amazon deal is presently for just one year, if the 2022 telecast is deemed a success, it could open up an important new revenue stream for MRC and potentially help avert disaster for the awards industry. “Our team is excited to be part of the creative and entrepreneurial innovations that streaming technology will unleash,” MRC co-CEO Modi Wiczyk said via the release.
While neither Amazon nor MRC-owned Dick Clark Productions are talking terms or money, The Wrap reported in June that CBS was asked to pay north of $20 million per year to continue to broadcast the show, a staggering sum given the huge ratings declines for almost all awards shows, including the ACMs. (This year’s telecast drew a little more than 6 million viewers, fully half as many as watched back in 2018.) CBS passed and quickly announced plans to convert the CMT Awards (from sibling cable network CMT) into a CBS exclusive. Dick Clark Productions then began shopping the ACMs to other outlets, including NBC, which broadcasts the DCP-produced Golden Globes. Vulture hears NBC, like CBS, balked at the money DCP was asking for the ACMs. What’s unclear is how much Amazon is committing to the deal, though one source familiar with the conversations suggested the $20 million-plus figure suggested by the Wrap was not matched by Amazon.