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Entertainment News

"CMT Loaded": Taking Aim at Artists and Labels Seeking An Alternative Music Venue

By Crystal Caviness
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service

Lewis Bogach wants to create water cooler moments.

As the Vice President of Programming and Production at CMT and the chief of its recently-launched broadband channel video initiative, CMT Loaded, Bogach observed that linear channels (a.k.a. cable or network television) offer finite programming opportunities, a boundary Bogach and others working with online content don't have.

"It's an infinite medium," Bogach said of the Internet, particularly as he views it in regard to what he and his team can offer CMT fans. "To me, it's the Wild West, it's open, it's freedom," Bogach said. "You're finding stuff there that you can't get anywhere else and it sparks people to go seek it out. Linear channels really don't do that anymore. The water cooler moments are all now happening online. Things that don't quite fit on the linear channels are things that fit on the Internet."

For CMT viewers, that means a plethora of behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes and programming that may have ended up on the proverbial editing room floor.

When Jeff Foxworthy's new series premiered on CMT in September, producers had hours of rehearsal footage, which typically would have found its way into a tape vault. Now, Bogach said, the rehearsals can be found at Loaded, so viewers who love "Foxworthy" can see what happened before the finished show.

The same has happened for an episode of "Greatest Moments" featuring Dolly Parton. Producers shot hours of the icon, but were restricted to less than an hour of the actual interview for its on air episode.

"We shot this awesome interview with Dolly Parton. She's a great storyteller; she's riveting," Bogach said. "Now when you go to Loaded every week, it's just Dolly Parton telling stories."

At its debut, Loaded's primary focus, CMT executives said, is to work in cooperation with its linear channel counterpart.

"It's a companion to CMT and also something separate," said Paul Burch, CMT Producer. "The production for (CMT programming) is really high. We can't fit all that we want into a show. The linear channel demands you have a beginning, middle and end and have to make room for commercials. On Loaded, we may have some deleted scenes that we didn't have room for on the linear channel and now we have a place to put it. It's also a way to reach out to an audience that isn't watching TV."

But that's just the beginning.

"In order for Loaded to be successful, it's got to bust out on its own," Bogach said.

That's where Burch comes in. The veteran musician and producer is charged with programming the "Wide Open Country" portion of Loaded, a section of the Web site devoted to music just off the beaten path of commercialism.

"My job is to make a place for videos that may not make it on the linear channel but also give a place for acts that are critically acclaimed and have a fan base but may not sell tons of records," Burch said. "In a sense, these are musicians' musicians. These are the artists who never intend to quit. They make videos and make films of recording sessions. It's probably what MTV would have attempted to do 20 years ago, but the technology didn't really exist."

Alt Country artists, including Bruce Robison and Holly Williams are frequently featured on "Wide Open Country," but viewers also can find legends Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and others programmed on the site.

"This is a new avenue and it's very open," Burch said. "There's this great wealth of material and it's never had an outlet before. I love to put up something that's a conventional video and really well done but also something that's really homemade. They all seem to fit equally on the screen. I'm trying to mix new artists with the well established."

The original programming is beginning to find its way to Burch and others, as artists and labels, particularly independents, send digital clips in for consideration.

The desire, CMT executives said, is to receive programming from as many folks in the music business as possible.

Bogach has issued an invitation - or perhaps a challenge - to artists, record labels and managers to make and send in whatever original programming they want. The artists have the footage, he said.

"I know Sugarland . they have a camera on the bus," Bogach said. "They all have someone in their camp playing around in this medium. But right now, it's staying on their cameras and staying on their lap top. You have a forum for that now on your terms. Unless it's completely raunchy or totally negative, why wouldn't we put it on? Get out there and show us who you are.

"Can we feature them all on Loaded, every single one? Yes, we can," Bogach said. "There's absolutely a seat on the bus."

On the Web: www.CMT.com/loaded

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