Anne Oakley – Senior Director for Program Enterprises, CMT
By Amanda Belo
Nashville, Tenn., is Mecca for country music and the dream to make it on Music Row is no easy task. For newly appointed senior director of program enterprises at CMT/Country Music Television, Anne Oakley, the business side of the industry proved to be a long-term commitment, just as it is for an aspiring artist who dreams to be the next Loretta Lynn or Hank Williams.
Oakley has spent the past seven years with the Program Enterprise division at CMT. In her recent promotion to senior director, she has added management duties to her plate, and will continue to work closely with Program Enterprises, based out of parent company Viacom’s New York office.
“I have recently taken over management of CMT Radio Network, which includes the syndicated nightly broadcast CMT Radio Live with Cody Alan. I’m charged with oversight and handle talent bookings for our radio division, which provides country music news and entertainment news to over 175 radio stations across the U.S.,” Oakley said.
So far, her transition has been seamless. She works well with the group in a close-knit environment and appreciates the team’s commitment to working toward the same goal.
Over the years, she has acquired a love for entertainment and creative environments. This has made her past positions and current role considerably more enjoyable. “I’ve loved the business of movies and television since I was little,” she said. “Although radio and television are different, the creative energy it takes to produce a product that people want to watch or listen to is thrilling for me.”
While familiar with the radio department, Oakley still feels relatively new to the business side of these particular airwaves. Thus far, she has come across a few challenges, but has embraced the learning process. “I like the challenge of learning something new,” she said.
With navigating her way around the radio community and the Nashville music scene, Oakley continues to learn the various radio call letters of CMT radio affiliates. The amount of them can be overwhelming, but not necessarily a bad sign. “Fortunately for us, we have a lot of strong radio affiliates and with that come a lot of stations and call letters.”
Before joining CMT in 2005, Oakley asserted her good business sense at ad agency, The Buntin Group. She oversaw the business side of the creative department with estimating jobs, hiring photographers and managing workflow. Oakley also worked in talent casting with country music video projects. “My project management skills and ability to understand both creative and business were useful tools,” she said.
Oakley sees the importance of connecting with people and creating relationships, whether in business or with CMT fans. Social media has made that connection easier for CMT by bringing immediacy and greater access to the audience on things that interest them the most.
“As a radio syndicator and television network, social media allows us the unique opportunity to connect with listeners and viewers not only through the airwaves, but also by interacting with them directly. The power and influence our fans have is incredible,” Oakley explained. “Additionally, it benefits on-air talent – at any given time an artist can be heard on the radio, tweeted about by our hosts while photos from the interview get posted on our Facebook pages, really maximizing their exposure and our reach.”
From a business perspective, CMT has adapted its multimedia platforms to the constant changes in technology. “When I first got to CMT, I worked on creating and selling DVDs. That business has really changed with the impact of Netflix and Video on Demand, among other things. We’ve shifted efforts and concentrate on things like download-to-own.”
With radio as a traditional form of media, Oakley still feels that the industry can remain intact while coexisting with the evolution of media.
“I think we must stay in-sync with the digital platforms. There is no reason they can’t coexist and really benefit one another. There will always be people that want to see a movie in the theater, watch from their big screen TV or listen to the radio in their car or home. We want to provide a forum for our listeners to connect with us everywhere. It’s just a better overall experience,” she said.
Oakley would like pitches that keep on topic for the CMT brand. “While we do occasionally cover stories outside of our genre, we are more likely to cover things that have a direct correlation to country music,” she said.
The network is always interested in booking artists and celebrities with a passion for country music and CMT, she added.