Nashville, the ABC drama about the turbulent world of country music that airs on Wednesday nights, is the quintessential cult television show.
It keeps surviving despite low ratings, and this year, it has been overshadowed by another music world drama, Empire, which ended its first season with close to 17 million viewers.
By contrast, last week’s episode of Nashville hit a series low, bringing in just 4.7 million viewers and a 1.1 rating.
It’s been a long time since Nashville had big numbers. Its highest rated episode was its 2012 series premiere, which had a little under nine million viewers. In fact, it wasn’t even a sure bet that the show would return for its current third season. It finished in 62nd place for the 2014 season out of 181 broadcast shows.
However, Nashville has many things going for it that have little to do with ratings numbers. The biggest is the growing audience for country music.
While people might not be watching the show in huge numbers, they are buying the country music featured on the show. Ever since Nashville’s debut, its songs and performers have been featured on iTunes, with downloads often appearing the same night that the program airs.
The most recent collection, Nashville: On the Record – Volume 2 is currently No. 15 on the country album chart, and peaked at number three. The show even released a Christmas album, filled with songs recorded just for the album and not featured on the show.
There was recently a concert episode of the show, and there has been a Nashville music tour, with a second batch of performances announced for this spring. ABC has tied the show to other programs, such as Good Morning America, and Dancing With The Stars.
And, an entire Nashville episode was built around the 2014 Country Music Awards, which also aired on ABC.
Nashvillians have embraced the program, and when the show seemed in jeopardy last year, tax incentives from the state of Tennessee (where the show is filmed on location), were enacted in order to make sure Nashville kept filming in Nashville.
Although most attention has gone to stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, the show has helped put some of its younger stars on the map. Lennon and Maisy Stella, who play Britton’s daughters, have a digital following on YouTube.
Australian Clare Bowen and Brit Sam Palladio, who play Scarlett O’Connor and Gunnar Scott on the show, are both working on their own country solo albums. Bowen is working with legendary producer T Bone Burnett, who is married to Nashville creator Callie Khouri, and has worked on the series.
And over the past few years, the series has earned some critical acclaim, too. Britton has been nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe and Panettiere was nominated for a Golden Globe as well.
The biggest problem is getting people to tune in.
Perhaps this week’s guest starring spot by Voice coach and pop star Christina Aguilera (who is joining the show for a few episodes), will help give it the ratings boost it needs if it wants to see a fourth season.