When the Country Music Association announced finalists for its 55th annual awards, most of the attention went to nomination leaders Eric Church and Chris Stapleton — and to Morgan Wallen, whose sole nomination came for top album. Buried farther down the list of nominees were the Broadcast Awards finalists, which picked up an extra category this year. For the first time since the introduction of the national-personality category in 2001, the CMA split it into daily and weekly divisions. The ramifications of that move may not be felt fully until next year and beyond.
Twenty-two companies received 52 nominations across 10 categories, with the Major Market and Small Market Radio Stations of the Year categories having six nominations each due to ties in voting. iHeartMedia leads all companies with 12 nominations, followed by Cumulus Media with five. Westwood One and Audacy have four each.
Creating two National divisions means double the number of nominations in that field, including a first-time nomination for Compass Media Network’s “Honky Tonkin’ with Tracy Lawrence.” Other shows received their first nominations in several years.
Only five shows have won National Broadcast Personality awards in the 20 years of their existence, with weekly programming having a distinct edge. “Country Countdown USA” leads with 10 wins, followed by “American Country Countdown” — hosted first by Kingsley, then Kix Brooks — with five. Bones and “The Lia Show” each have two, and “The Big D and Bubba Show” has one. This is the first year when all five previous winners have nominations.
It wasn’t that long ago — 2017, to be exact — that the number of CMA national nominees expanded from three to five. Even so, creators of nationally syndicated programming have been lobbying for the split for years.
On Friday, CMA addressed the changes in a statement provided to Country Insider.
“As CMA’s Radio Subcommittee reviewed the National Personality application list from the last few years, they noticed a large increase in the number of national shows submitting applications,” the statement said. “As more shows are being syndicated over multiple markets, the pool of applicants will continue to increase in the years ahead,”
The statement also said the subcommittee changed eligibility criteria for the Broadcast Awards so that DSP shows, such as those on Apple Music Country, could be considered for nomination in the National Personality categories.
“Because there was a fairly equal split between daily and weekly shows,” the statement continued, “the subcommittee determined it made more sense for shows that are on air 200+ times a year to compete against one another instead of going up against less frequent shows that might have just 40 or so shows a year. CMA believes these changes create opportunity for more incredible shows, personalities and voices to be recognized for their great work supporting the Country Music community.”
The most significant aspect of the weekly/daily split might be the separation of Westwood One’s “Country Countdown USA,” hosted by Lon Helton, and Premiere Networks’ “The Bobby Bones Show.” One of those two shows has won the National Broadcast Personality award seven of the past nine years. Bobby Bones has won both times he’s been nominated, in 2017 and 2019. Helton has won in every even-numbered year since 2002. The only time “Country Countdown USA” has been nominated and lost was in 2001, the year the national award was created, when the show lost to Bob Kingsley’s “American Country Countdown.”
With “The Bobby Bones Show” and “Country Countdown USA” now competing in different categories, the stage is set for new winners, if not this year — should both shows continue their winning ways — then in 2022, when neither would be eligible for nomination.
The move also creates a rare scenario where “Country Countdown USA” could win in back-to-back years. Unlike the televised awards, broadcast personalities are not allowed to win their category in consecutive years, which keeps a single station or show from dominating a category for years, even decades. However, since National Broadcast Personality, which Helton won in 2020, is technically a different category from Weekly National Broadcast Personality, his show retains its eligibility for 2021.
The situation creates another first, as Silverfish Media President Patrick Thomas becomes the first person to receive two Broadcast Awards nominations in the same year. Thomas appears on the daily “Big D and Bubba Show” and the weekly “Honky Tonkin’ with Tracy Lawrence,” both distributed by Compass Media Networks.
“I knew it was two completely different shows, and I still didn't think they’d both get nominated, so it's pretty exciting,” Thomas tells Country Insider. “I don't get to say I was the first person to ever do something very often.”
Eight of April’s Academy of Country Music’s Radio Award winners appear in CMA’s nominations list. Medium Market On-Air Personality of the Year Buzz Jackson of Cumulus Media KIIM Tucson, AZ (99.5) is the only one of this year’s ACM radio winners not to pick up a corresponding CMA nomination.
Ten stations, including four of the five large-market nominees, received nominations both for the station and one of its shows.
The proliferation of syndicated and multi-market shows means some stations boast CMA-nominated talent in most of their dayparts. iHeartMedia “95.5 The Bull” KWNR Las Vegas, for instance, carries “The Bobby Bones Show” in mornings, followed by Lois “Double L” Lewis — nominated as major-market personality at her home station of KNIX Phoenix (102.5) — in middays. PM drive host Wayne D is now based in Nashville, where his “The Wayne D Show” is up for Large Market Personality of the Year, and national nominee Cody Alan and his “CMT After Midnite” carry the overnight hours.
“The 55th Annual CMA Awards” will air live from Nashville on Wednesday, Nov. 10 (8pm ET, ABC).