Gray Green-Lights Opry-powered OTT, Multicast Offering


NASHVILLE — Not too long ago, the launch of a new cable TV network was an essential part of a company’s growth plan.

Now, thanks to digital technology, over-the-top offerings are all the rage. So, it seems, are digital multicast offerings, as more viewers eschew a big monthly MVPD bill and go with free over-the-air choices.

Gray Television is tapping into these dual growth trends by going Country.

The owner of broadcast TV stations across the U.S., which just merged with Raycom Media, is linking up with Opry Entertainment Group on a channel dedicated to “the country lifestyle.”

The agreement sees the Ryman Hospitality Properties subsidiary create a joint venture with Gray. This entity will create and distribute “a premier linear multicast” and OTT channel “dedicated to the country lifestyle.”

The channel seeks to draw viewers from “the current landscape of country music media offerings” by providing “a dedicated home for artist-driven country lifestyle programming.”

Content, Ryman and Gray say, will highlight country music artists “and the passions, hobbies and love of music they share with their fans.”

It’s a 50/50 joint venture and will link Opry Entertainment’s network of entertainment venues, programming archive, licensed content and original programming to Gray’s local television and digital presence.

The new service will be based in Nashville, where the Grand Ole Opry now can be found in a sprawling complex along Briley Parkway, to the east of downtown across the Cumberland River.

The yet-to-be-named offering is roughly a year away from launch, with Gray stations adding it as a digital multicast.

The companion “premium OTT service” will come in mid-2020, the companies note.

Staffing is presently being ramped up under Drew Reifenberger, who will serve as GM.

Ryman Hospitality Properties Chairman/CEO Colin Reed said, “For more than 93 years, the Grand Ole Opry has provided a platform for country music fans to discover and connect with artists. This partnership with Gray is the next step in the continued evolution of our company’s position as a country music discovery point for fans. Its distribution network closely aligns with our fan base and will allow us to quickly scale our delivery of existing and original artist-centered content to help reach the 110 million country music fans in the United States.”

Speaking for Gray is former Raycom Media leader and now Gray President/co-CEO Pat LaPlatney. “We have believed for some time that tremendous opportunity exists to bring differentiated entertainment offerings that celebrate country music to our audience base,” he said. “Opry Entertainment’s unparalleled history in the country music industry, combined with their special and enduring relationship with the artist community, makes them a natural partner to help us deliver this premium content to our local communities.”

Scott Bailey, President of Opry Entertainment, added, “Country music fans have long been knownto be tremendously dedicated to the genre. As a company, we have recognized that there is a gapfor these consumers in where they can go to watch great artist-centered programming on anydevice, wherever they happen to be. We believe there is a significant opportunity to become thecategory leader in country lifestyle entertainment and to play an important role in delivering thiscontent and experience.”

— Additional reporting by Adi Raz, in Nashville