Nashville fans may dread bidding farewell to their favorite show, but they also know they were lucky to get two extra seasons when CMT resuscitated the music-filled primetime drama after ABC canceled it in May 2016. But all good things come to an end, and the first of Nashville’s final eight episodes premieres Thursday, June 7 at 9 pm ET.
“For my team and me, when the decision was made to end it, it gave us the chance to use it as an opportunity to celebrate the whole series and give it a proper goodbye,” says Peter Mannes, CMT’s VP of Creative.
There were two key goals for this campaign.
“One was obviously to tease what was coming up, because there’s a huge amount of drama and great storylines, and fans want to see how the story ends for these characters they’ve spent so much time with and loved. We also thought it was a perfect opportunity to look back and celebrate this amazing journey they’ve been on for six seasons,” Mannes says.
“We thought looking back would bring some emotional weight as we look forward and tease out how it ends. We think that also will help us appeal to viewers who may have dropped off along the way, for whatever reasons, but may find it’s important for them to watch the final eight episodes.”
Mannes and his team rounded up cast members to get their perspectives on storylines, songs, what the show has meant to them and even what the city of Nashville—where the series was filmed—means to them.
“They had some wonderful things to say,” Mannes says. “And their words have become a huge part of our on-air campaign. The cast has been on the same journey the viewers have been on, so the connection between them is very strong.”
CMT’s social team had fans vote for their favorite scenes; one moment from each season was chosen to be highlighted in clips that incorporate comments from the actors’ interviews. There’s also a “Six Seasons in Five Minutes” recap video and more to come, including one showcasing six seasons of snark.
The result is an on-air campaign that includes content that can be distributed across multiple platforms from video-on-demand to iTunes.
The fun doesn’t end there. The Ultimate Nashville Sweepstakes launches June 7, along with the new episodes, and concludes July 26 — the day of the series finale.
“The sweepstakes will run on our website, CMT.com, but will also have a social component for additional entries,” says Rory Levine, VP of marketing, CMT. “The grand prize is this incredible Highway 65 painting that used to hang behind Rayna’s [Connie Britton] desk in the Highway 65 office. And two runners up will each win one of the platinum album plaques that were rewarded to Rayna James earlier in her career for some of her incredibly successful albums.”
Because Rayna James is a fictional character, the album covers featured on those plaques were mocked up by the art department using actual photos of Britton from those same time periods, and were displayed on the set of Rayna’s music room. “The level of detail is stellar,” Levine says.
Throughout the final eight episodes and the sweepstakes, CMT will be randomly surprising fans, via social media, with fake tour merchandise — like t-shirts and posters — that had been created for various Nashville characters over the years.
Levine hopes to add some promotional partnerships as the series nears its end, and Mannes says Nashville fans may want to tune into the CMT Music Awards that will air live from Nashville on June 6 at 8 pm ET.
“Look to that for something exclusive that will tease out what happens in Nashville. You might get some surprises. Pay attention.”