Three companies under the Universal umbrella have combined forces to discover the next big country music star. USA Network has greenlighted "Nashville Star," a reality series described as "a nationwid

Three companies under the Universal umbrella have combined forces to discover the next big country music star. USA Network has greenlighted "Nashville Star," a reality series described as "a nationwide grass-roots search for the next great country music singer-songwriter."

Ben Silverman's Universal-based production company Reveille is producing the series in association with Universal Music Group, which has committed to giving the winner a recording contract. "Nashville Star," which will consist of at least six episodes, is eyed for a launch in the first or second quarter of next year.

"Country music is a genre that really resonates with our audience," USA Network president Doug Herzog said. "It's great to be able to tap into the resources of the Universal family by teaming with the Universal Music Group and Reveille to find the next great country star."

Silverman emphasized that the project "wasn't conceived of in the name of synergy; it was conceived of in the name of success. We really are confident that this is an audience that gets largely ignored by the people in New York and Los Angeles and in fact is at the core of what America is about."

The competition on "Nashville Star" will be open to singer-songwriters from all country genres. Finalists who pass the preliminary rounds around the country will gather in Nashville, where they will perform at different local venues. The exact format of the show is still being worked out, but it will include live elements, and the elimination process will combine voting by viewers and the opinion of a panel of judges. "We are gonna be combining both the broad populism of giving the audience an opportunity to help decide who this person is, alongside the filter of making sure this is a true musical talent," Silverman said.

The framework of the competition somewhat resembles Fox's summer hit "American Idol: The Search for a Superstar," but Silverman, who as an agent was instrumental in bringing "Popstars" to the WB Network, emphasized that "Nashville Star" is not going to be a country music clone of "American Idol." "The bottom line is -- there is incredible drama and incredible emotion in watching people pursue their dreams, and this is a show about dreams, and not only is it about dreams, but dreams come true," he said.

Because USA as a cable network doesn't have local stations, the producers of the show are in negotiations with a major radio station group to participate as promotional partners. The stations, which will provide a local angle to the contestants, will also be used as another way for the fans to participate through a local phase of the competition.

Universal Music Group boasts such country stars as Shania Twain, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, and Trisha Yearwood.

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