- - Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood — arguably the most beloved country music partnership since Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton — are again set to host the annual Country Music Association Awards.

The question is if the duo’s star power can once again help the CMAs win the ratings in its time slot. ABC will broadcast the 48th annual awards show Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

“I think the good news is that country music is a hot genre right now,” CMA CEO Sarah Trahern said when asked if the ever-increasing number of televised music awards and reality shows is worrisome. “Even though ‘The Voice’ is on [NBC], that helps us. Blake [Shelton] has a stronger profile than ever on that show.

“And whether Keith [Urban] is on [Fox’s] ‘American Idol’ or Kellie [Pickler] is on [ABC’s] ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and Brad [Paisley] is on [ABC’s] ‘Rising Star,’ all those things help,” Ms. Trahern said.

Dozens of performers are slated to appear, including George Strait, the reigning Entertainer of the Year who will make his 24th CMA performance appearance; Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban, who have the early morning promo duty on ABC’s “Good Morning America”; and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who will simultaneously appear in both Nashville and Los Angeles thanks to holograms.

Last year’s three-hour CMA Awards won each of its half-hour timeslots and outperformed CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and “CSI.” The 17.2 million people who tuned into last year’s show made up its largest overall audience since 2008.

Pundits believe returning the CMAs to Wednesday night — the 2012 show was broadcast on a Thursday and hit an all-time low, with just 13.4 million viewers — has saved it from ratings ruin.

But Ms. Trahern and her team know even the brightest star power and most comfortable viewing routine can only take a show so far, especially when faced with tough competition. NBC’s prime-time line-up on Wednesday features new episodes of “The Mysteries of Laura,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Chicago PD,” while CBS will air new episodes of “Survivor,” “Criminal Minds,” and ‘Stalker.”

The CMA team upped the ante weeks before this year’s broadcast. Mr. Paisley, Ms. Underwood and other stars have posted messages encouraging fans to tune in. And when they do, the show won’t disappoint. Offerings include an expanded “Back Stage” pass application for smartphones and tablets. Starting at 5 p.m., fans can watch interviews, red carpet appearances, and backstage hijinks.

But don’t plan on seeing the always-shocked-that-she-won Taylor Swift, who has renounced her country crown for pop star status with the release of her new album “1989,” or any overt controversy. When asked about the furor over some recent country lyrics, Ms. Trahern responded that the show would maintain a high level of family friendliness for fans of all ages.

“I think that is what makes our show so great, that we are able to present country music in its totality,” she said, noting appearances by traditional country musicians and suggesting a surprise for fans of Glen Campbell, who is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. “Last year we had a special moment with Kenny Rogers. Those [legacy] performers are always an important part of our show.”



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