Fox Sports’ coverage of the Professional Bowlers Association continues to gain momentum during the PBA Playoffs.
Going into Sunday’s semifinals in Jupiter, Florida, Fox’s first four broadcasts saw ratings increases. Last month’s USBC Masters averaged 847,000 viewers on FOX, up 28% from the March 13 PBA WSOB World Championships. The USBC Masters also saw a 39% jump compared to last year’s lone PBA April telecast.
While most sports have been riding a ratings rollercoaster the past couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bowling was mostly immune to that.
“They were basically flat in 2021 compared to 2020,” said Bill Wanger, who heads Fox’s scheduling and programming. “The Sunday events have led right into our NASCAR programming. Those two sports have a good flow together in terms of a TV viewing with the Midwest and the Southeast being kind of hotbeds for both of those sports.”
While Fox has done a lot with graphics to help people understand the sport more — whether it is track the change in oil patterns on the lane or scorebox updates with the maximum score each bowler could get — the biggest change might be bowlers being able to show their personality more with pre-match introduction videos or interviews between matches.
Kimberly Pressler, who has been reporting lane side for PBA events since 2010, said the spotlighting of personalities has resonated the most with viewers since the switch from ESPN to Fox in 2017.
“I think it accentuates the show in its entirety because we’re focusing on them as more than just a bowler,” Pressler said. “We’re focusing on them as true athletes and humans so that everyone can get to know them. It’s kind of like when they pick their strike songs. I love that they pick their strike songs because you get to see a bit of their personality.
“People get to see them in a different light. They don’t see them as if they were bowlers in 1972. They see them as athletes in 2022.”
Wanger has also been pleased with Pressler’s role on the broadcasts.
“She gets those great, visceral reactions from the bowlers, especially right after the tournament’s concluded. She brings a lot of that inside information. I think that’s very relatable to the fans out there,” he said.
Also helping with the increased viewership is that 27 of the 31 events that Fox and FS1 have this season are airing live, which helps with the added exposure. Wanger added that the increase in live events has been a goal the past couple years.
The PBA Playoffs finals will air live on May 15.
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