Upfront Update: CMT'S Midday Crowing - Simon Applebaum

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Venue : Lunch hour at The Times Center's auditorium near Times Square. Given a good chunk of CMT's lineup is country music videos and concerts, the audience on hand moved into the room hearing country tunes, then watching excerpts from recent episodes of the long-running series Crossroads (a decade and counting). When Sheryl Crow performed a mini-concert at the end of the network's presentation, the back curtain rose to reveal a glass window of the rest of the building, with a flowery patio in the center. Nice backgroup for both Crow and the audience. Grade: 4.5 JacksCMT

Presentation : Swift and clear that going forward, CMT is one big part country music, one big part reality series featuring, as president Brian Phillips noted, "characters who are bold, strong and unapologetic." Programming executive vice president Jayson Dinsmore went a step further, calling people depicted in his channel's reality series "great American characters...louder, edgier, yet still rooted in values." Example: bounty hunters Dog and Beth Chapman, whose reality TV exploits resume April 21. Both execs let videos handle the majority of presentation time, leaving Crow and her band to deliver a four-song concert that was beautifully balanced (and a model for how other channels can effectively do multi-song performances). Crow started/finished with a pair of hits (If It Makes You Happy leading off/Every Day Is A Winding Road wrapping up), then offered two new tunes in the middle (Easy, the first one, is a sure hit.) Grade:5 Jacks

News : Three new series will debut over the next six months--Hillbillies for Hire, The Dirty South and an untitled look at recent The Voice winner Cassadee Pope's route to launch her country music career. Also, CMT will bringCops on in a "reloaded" edition, starting March 25. Two other news notes: a la sister net MTV, look for a recurring music news presence (including documentary specials) this summer or fall, and Bounty Hunters, CMT's first animated comedy series, sees the light this summer. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Host: Philips and Dinsmore should consider doing more events together. Both have an easy, relaxed manner and keep the enthusiasm level-headed. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Fine mix of information, promotion and performance, all handled in an hour or less.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Three quick notes from the passing parade:

Fox went the unusual route of revealing its worst-kept secret ever, starting national sports net Fox Sports 1, last week. First, a press conference for reporters at the Marriott Marquis, then an advertiser presentation somewhere (closed to press), and finally a "post-party" bash at Roseland that night. Therefore, no upfront review for Fox Sports 1, which starts August 17 over what currently is Speed, available to some 90 million homes. We can say you never saw Roseland in any manner like what the brains at Fox Sports did Tuesday night. Part video game alley, part lavish sports bar and part a variety of yummies from hot dogs (several kinds, including Nathan's from Coney Island) to fish tacos. Star of the night besides such Fox Sports personalities as Terry Bradshaw and Erin Andrews: the hot dog barker. Get that person a Yankee Stadium job pronto.

Two revelations from last week's Media Summit in New York, organized by Digital Hollywood. 1) Crowdfunding is drawing serious attention as a way to get TV pilots and series financed now, and new TV networks, interactive TV apps and advanced technology later on. 2) There's at least one incubator venture focused on TV and media ventures--Glass Elevator Media, run by Adrienne Becker (who moderated one of Media Summit's panels). So 500 Startups, Tech Stars, Y Combinator, etc....when will you embrace TV startups in the great work you do with Web and mobile? How about it?

Congratulations to ABC Family's Switched at Birth for its "Uprising" episode last Monday night, the first scripted TV episode ever done largely in sign language. To all involved, starting with creator/executive producer Lizzy Weiss, thank you for creating a TV milestone, cracking a glass ceiling for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Let's encourage others to crack this ceiling further. To ABC Family from executives on down, thank you for making this milestone available to all.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time onwww.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available atwww.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.

Have a question or reaction? E-mail it tosimonapple04@yahoo.com, or tweet @UBCSimonTWBT.

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