It's becoming clear that television programmers no longer think of country music listeners as a niche audience. The three biggest networks are rumored to be battling to present future CMA Awards telecasts. According to New York magazine, NBC, CBS and ABC are in a bidding war for the long-running franchise.

Sunday night's successful 'CMA Music Festival' special on ABC is proof of how loyal the country audience can be. Even on a Sunday night in August -- not your typical peak viewing window -- seven million people tuned in to make it the night's most watched program between 8 and 11PM ET. Last November, over 17 million people turned on ABC to watch the 2010 CMA Awards. The network will air the show again this year on November 9.

CBS was the award show's home for 34 years until ABC bought the rights. Both networks are engaged in talks with the franchise, as is NBC. The peacock network is no doubt encouraged by the success of Blake Shelton's appearance on 'The Voice.' Shelton quickly became one of the most popular personalities on the show, which is widely considered the break out show of the year.

New York magazine reports that CMA officials could announce a new television deal by month's end.

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