Circle Network, a country music channel co-owned by the Grand Ole Opry’s parent company and station group Gray Television, said it has signed distribution deals with four big streaming platforms: Roku, Samsung’s TV Plus, Vizio’s SmartCast, and Comcast-owned Xumo.
The four outlets collectively claim 76 million monthly average users, and represent a big jump in audience accessibility for the 10-month-old network, said Circle’s General Manager Drew Reifenberger. Opry Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of Ryman Hospitality Properties, is a co-owner of the network with Gray, one of the nation’s biggest broadcast station groups.
The channel has been anchored by Saturday night broadcasts of performances on Opry Live from the Grand Ole Opry’s storied stage in Nashville, Tenn., continuing even through the pandemic’s strictures, though without live audiences.
The Opry “has had shows, with no audience, for 32 weeks now,” Reifenberger said. “The Opry is going on 95 years of uninterrupted Saturday night broadcasts, coming up on 5,000 performances and we’re not going to break that. We’re the only ones with original content every week, particularly in the early stages (of the pandemic). That’s what the Opry is all about.”
For all the rich tradition of those hour-long performances, however, Reifenberger said the Circle Network was built to appeal to country music’s Millennial and Gen Z audiences, who now make up about half the nation’s population.
“The why of creating this channel was simple research,” Reifenberger said. “There are 120 million country music fans who simply are being underserved. We think it’s very much about the lifestyle as much as it is about the music. It’s a platform to bring artists and the audiences closer together.”
To feed those audiences, the channel has 16 original or exclusive shows, then pieces in licensed movies and other