PBR over-the-top service set for launch this week
The Professional Bull Riders’ over-the-top streaming venture debuts this week, as the Endeavor-owned property seeks to take western sports to the next level digitally.
RidePass will cost about $7 per month for users who get a full-year subscription. Content will include companion coverage for all PBR premier series events that air on CBS Sports Group’s channels; on-demand replays of those events the next day; and live airings of premier series events not carried by CBS. It also will have original content series; access to PBR’s international tours not carried by CBS; and live rodeo events that are put on by other organizations.
The venture is funded and developed by Endeavor, which bought the PBR in April 2015 for a reported $100 million, and is part of the Hollywood agency’s broader OTT strategy that includes UFC’s Fight Pass and the Made to Measure fashion channel.
The PBR aims to have subscriber numbers in the six figures or more within 18 months of its launch.
“It’s been a 10-year vision, but for the last three or four years we’ve been putting all the pieces together strategically with the intention of getting to this,” Sean Gleason, PBR CEO, said last week, noting that PBR brought its production in-house several years ago to lay the groundwork for the venture. “Bringing TV production in-house wasn’t just for our TV capabilities; it was for all of these things.”
PBR is handling the venture in-house and has grown its production group fourfold in order to operate RidePass. The first live event to be streamed on the network will be PBR’s St. Louis Invitational this weekend.
PBR has been producing live streams of non-televised premier series events for about five years. Gleason said PBR was “not monetizing that purposefully besides selling a little bit of ads because we were building a base and perfecting our abilities — and now the base is willing to pay for it because they understand the quality of the content we’re delivering.”
PBR will have its own broadcast team that is separate from CBS on-site at events for its premier series, now titled the 25th PBR: Unleash the Beast tour, to produce companion coverage. That will include interviews, insights and behind-the-scenes access.
Original content produced for the service will include “Keepin’ it 90” featuring PBR star J.B. Mauney and western personality Dale Brisby, plus “In Color,” which will have interviews with past and current PBR riders.
The PBR is working with local rodeo shows throughout the country and the National High School Rodeo Association to air non-PBR events on the network. It’s also working with the World Champions Rodeo Alliance to create rodeo events and manage the media rights to them.
The app to access the network will be available on Apple and Android devices, and will become available later this year on other OTT services including Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Roku. The platform will feature some sponsored content, though none during the initial rollout this week. There are no current plans to have traditional advertising on the platform, but Gleason said the PBR is open to the idea. At least to start, the PBR will use subscription numbers to judge the success of the platform.
The series will market the effort with some paid advertising and by putting the product in front of western sports fans.
“The vision for the company is much broader than just RidePass, but we’re fortunate that a Hollywood agency bought a bull riding organization,” Gleason said. “It’s largely because they saw the opportunity around content.”