Kelsea Ballerini Tests Positive for COVID, Will Go Remote as CMT Awards Host; Kane Brown Steps In as Co-Host

A positive COVID test for country star Kelsea Ballerini has led to a change in plans for tonight’s CMT Music Awards, being broadcast on CBS. The singer will remain as co-host, but participate remotely. Actor Anthony Mackie remains on the hosting duties he was to perform alongside her, but now will be joined at the live ceremony by fill-in host Kane Brown.

In a statement, a CMT rep said said of Ballerini, “Fortunately, she is asymptomatic and remains excited to co-host the show (remotely). Kelsea’s good friend Kane Brown — who co-hosted with her last year — has graciously agreed to step in alongside Anthony Mackie. The three of them have lots of surprises up their sleeves and fans can look forward to an epic show.”

The three-hour show will take up all three hours of CBS’ prime time tonight starting live at 8 p.m. ET, tape-delayed for the west coast at 5 p.m. PT.

Having three hosts for the show — albeit with one who won’t be on the premises at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville — effectively repeats the lineup from last year but with Mackie as a plus-one. Mackie, recently seen as the co-lead in the Marvel limited series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” was as a a surprise choice to host a country awards show when he was announced for the role in March, although he did present an award on last year’s telecast.

The CMT Awards show was originally announced for April 3, but then another CBS show, the Grammys, took over that slot after being delayed from January, and the CMTs were bumped back eight days. The telecast will be based at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, with remote performances from other locations, after long having the much larger Bridgestone Arena as its home turf.

The CMTs differ from the other two major country awards shows, the Academy of Country Music Awards (which were webcast in March on Prime Video) and the Country Music Association wards, in not having a membership organization selecting the honors but being fan-voted, from nominations that are decided upon in-house at CMT.

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