ACM Awards Sticking to Eligibility Period for 2020 Show Despite Move

Kelsea Ballerini
Meredith Jenks

Kelsea Ballerini photographed on Feb. 13, 2020 at Mister Paradise in New York.

When the Academy of Country Music Awards air Sept. 16 on CBS, the winners will be exactly the same as if the show had beamed live from Las Vegas on April 5, as originally planned.

Damon Whiteside, the Academy’s CEO, tells Billboard that the board of directors did discuss whether voting should be altered or extended from the normal Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2019, eligibility period after the show was postponed because of coronavirus concerns, but the decision was made not to.

“The short answer is we’re keeping everything intact,” Whiteside says. "[Accounting firm] Deloitte has the final results, which they are keeping securely within their possession. They won’t be shared with anybody, nobody gets prior information.”

While it means that some of the winners will be almost two years old, it did not seem fair to make any changes. “The artists earned it and should be given the trophy,” Whiteside says. “If we changed anything, it would be undermining the integrity of our awards.”

Additionally, adjusting the schedule to make the winners more current with the September show date would throw future years into disarray to break from the annual cycle.

Keeping the awards slate as planned is one small piece of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic time. “We don’t know what the climate will be in the country in September and what the artists will be feeling,” Whiteside says. “It’s anyone’s guess how the show will morph in September other than the awards will be the same.”

As is tradition, the best new artist winners will be announced slightly before the broadcast. Additionally, the Academy is looking at digital initiatives to help support some of the nominees during the summer. “Since it is a long nominations window, our goal is to create some opportunities that we could get [nominees] to engage in with fans leading up to Sept. 16,” Whiteside says.

Instead of airing the ACM Awards on Sunday, CBS broadcast ACM Presents: Our Country, a collection of at-home performances taped by top country artists, including Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Kelsea Ballerini and more over the past week after social distancing began. The show, which drew more than 8 million viewers, according to Nielsen/MRC Data, will be rebroadcast April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

dick clark productions, producer of ACM Presents: Our Country, is owned by Valence Media, which also owns Billboard.