A plan to have a television channel devoted to boosting Eastern Kentucky music and tourism is coming to fruition.

The Mountain Arts Center announced that it will debut the first one-hour episode of “LIVE from CMH23” next week.

Tickets are free to the event, which is open to the public at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12, at the MAC.

It was produced by The Country Network, a country music television channel that is broadcast in 20 million homes in the U.S, and CMH23, a new regional cable television channel that is being developed to promote music, tourism attractions, history and events in counties located along the Country Music Highway. 

The Country Network producers shot video during sessions at the Paramount in Ashland, the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg and the Hillbilly Days Festival in Pikeville in April. 

“Although we’ve let a lot of teasers out, it will be the first time that we are openly going to discuss it and let people know what’s going on,” Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton said. “The one-hour show that’s going to be premiered, it’s the first time it’s ever been shown publicly.” 

Stapleton, a member of the CMH23 board, said the premier will feature local artists performing original songs. This episode will debut on The Country Network this fall, officials said. 

MAC Marketing and Programming Director Joe Campbell said dozens of artists were recorded by The Country Network team when they visited the region in April. 

Campbell provided a partial list of musicians highlighted, including Adam Chaffins, Brandon Campbell, Brittany Taylor, Chelsea Nolan, Jason Goble, Kelsie May, Luna and the Mountain Jetts, Rachel Messer, Sean Whiting, Nick Jamerson, Tyler Booth, Waylon Nelson and Josh Martin. Some of those musicians, Campbell said, were backed by members of the Billie Jean Osborne Kentucky Opry band.

“When the producer left here, he said, that when they came here, he was hoping to have 12, 30-minute episodes,” Campbell said. “He said when they left, they had enough programming for 13, one-hour episodes. They were blown away at the talent and the facilities of here and the Paramount, and the tech crew we have. They were just blown away. They couldn’t believe all of this existed in Eastern Kentucky, all the talent and the capabilities we have here.” 

He said The Country Network is returning next week to record episodes for the second season of “Live from CMH23.” This show will be among many highlights of the new regional television channel.  

The Country Network and CMH23 will share content, officials said, and officials with that network are working with local telecommunication companies to provide that channel locally. 

“Once the channel is up and running, it will be an affiliate of The Country Network, and we’ll be able to pass programming back and forth,” Campbell said.  “We’ll be able to use their shows and then they’ll pick what they want to use on their national network from our programming. They’re in 20 million homes, The Country Network is, and they’ll soon be around here. They’re working on those agreements right now with the cable systems around here.”

The new regional television studio will be housed at the Mountain Arts Center, officials said, and there are plans to utilize those facilities in training programs with Big Sandy Community & Technical College for the new TV station.

“It is a not-for-profit organization,” Stapleton said. “Our goal is to do three things. One is to showcase our local talent. Two is give not only our local talent, but local businesses, local attractions and tourism an outlet so that they can be seen nationwide. And the third thing is we’re going to try to provide some employment opportunities and some training opportunities by partnering with Big Sandy Community & Technical College to train people in audio, visual, direction, production, everything that goes along with a TV station.” 

Stapleton said the local channel will “show people what’s going on in the area,” highlighting local festivals and events, as well as tourism attractions like elk hunting.

He said the television channel and its website will serve as a “tool” for tourism, connecting people with events and attractions available in all counties located along the Country Music Highway.

For free tickets to the premier, visit the MAC box office or call, (888) MAC-ARTS.

For more information about CMH23, visit, tcncountry.net/cmh.htm.

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