SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Rodeo group’s hopes ride on 2 tours

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has created two pro tours that will be part of beefed-up television exposure designed to improve its appeal with fans and sponsors, said tour officials.

The PRCA will launch its new winter tour in January. The circuit's eight events and finals in Las Vegas will be packaged in 90-minute shows and televised Sunday nights in prime time by The Nashville Network under a new contract.

Details for a summer tour are sketchier, said rodeo operations director T.J. Walter. He said as many as 15 events leading up to the annual National Finals Rodeo will be televised on ESPN2 Sunday nights between May and December.

"This has been specifically developed to make rodeo easier to follow," said Walter, who supervises the more than 700 events that lead up to the National Finals Rodeo in December. At the same time, developing more fans should also increase ratings, "and companies are interested in rodeo [until] they look at the ratings," Walter said.

The changes apparently have impressed longtime sponsor Coors Brewing Co. The beer company's contract with PRCA expired with the end of the 1999 season, but negotiations for a new deal are already under way.

Walter said PRCA Commissioner Steve Hatchell told him the agreement was "already worked out in concept," but he was not aware of the terms of the deal. Hatchell was unavailable because of the negotiations.

Rodeo, especially popular in the West and Southwest, has been attempting to broaden its appeal for years, in part by staging events in potential markets nationwide. Those efforts are expected to continue.

Sports marketers say rodeo appeals to roughly the same demographics as NASCAR but has yet to capture the public imagination like the stock car racing circuit, which recently landed a $400 million-a-year television deal with three networks.

TNN had televised NASCAR for years. It has also carried another rodeo circuit, the Professional Bull Riders, which executives call one of its top ratings draws. In fact, the PBR — with fewer than 30 events leading to an annual championship — serves as a sort of model for the shorter, fan-friendly tours PRCA is planning.

Walter said PRCA hopes "television makes rodeo more appealing to everyone. Right now it's too complicated to follow. This will help [fans] understand rodeo better."

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Dallas Cowboys, NASCAR

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