“I’m excited to come back for my fifth year as a co-host,” says Bryan, before good-naturedly busting Bentley’s chops. “Now that Dierks has a year under his belt, maybe he will actually bring something to the table.
“Kidding!” jokes Bryan. “Dierks is a blast, and we have been working on ideas for months. It’s game on!”
For Bentley, the training wheels are off. “Last year I was the rookie and really didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “From start to finish, being part of the creative conversations from the monologue to my performance makes the whole experience something I look that much more forward to this year. The show was loose and a lot of fun with Luke. I definitely want to carry that into this year.”
Bentley received three nominations while Bryan is up for entertainer of the year against Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, who leads the overall field of nominations with seven. Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris received six each, while FGL and Tim McGraw earned five.
The hosts may remain the same, but a number of changes are in store for 2017, including a new venue: The awards move down the Las Vegas Strip to the new T-Mobile Arena, a switch that allows the ACMs’ production partner, dick clark productions, “more space to work with and execute bigger design and production ideas,” says ACM CEO Pete Fisher, who also is in a new role.
The former vice president/GM of the Grand Ole Opry and longtime ACM board member, Fisher became the organization’s new head in January. He says his years at the Opry made him appreciate “just how big the playing field is in country, both the musical and generational breadth,” adding that the ACMs will also stress those “multiple dimensions” throughout the show.
Such moments, the producers hope, will lift ratings, which were down 36 percent in 2016 from 2015 when the ACM Awards celebrated their 50th anniversary from Dallas’ AT&T Stadium.
“We’re clearly focused on pushing all those levers in our marketing portfolio to drive viewership,” says Fisher. Partners that will help promote the show include T-Mobile and Xfinity from Comcast.
Promoted by the ACM as “country music’s party of the year,” the awards telecast concludes four days of events featuring more than 70 artists spread across 13 venues in Las Vegas.
“My favorite part of the ACMs is the environment in Vegas, when all of Nashville comes to town,” says Bentley. “This show is just a total party, and I always look forward to getting out there and seeing everyone.”