Fox Sports can add excitement to PBA on TV

The Mining Journal's reporter Steve Brownlee receives a Good News Awards from Bishop James Garland during a lunch and awards ceremony Wednesday at the Landmark Inn in Marquette. (Journal photo by Dave Edwards)

Last week I outlined the schedule of televised bowling for this spring and summer on the CBS Sports Network.

But I didn’t get a chance to share what is probably the most important news long-term — that Fox Sports has signed a multiyear agreement with the PBA.

For us fans watching on TV, what it means is that more events will be available, mostly on FS1 (Charter cable channel 90) with a few on the main Fox network.

There will be shows in prime time, which never existed in a long time, if ever, on ABC or ESPN.

There will also be a more events shown live, which certainly adds a sense of immediacy to the shows, if for no other reason than if something unusual happens, it’s much less likely to get cup up on the editing-room floor.

This agreement takes effect starting in 2019.

I know I saw it somewhere online, or perhaps I heard some of the guys who work for bowling ball companies talking about it at the U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championship that I participated in about a month ago, but they said that Fox is actually paying for the rights to air the PBA, rather than the PBA paying ESPN to show it.

That could signal a lot healthier financial picture as it’s been both reported and rumored over the past decade or so as the PBA truly being on life support.

I was able to track down a story posted last week online by Ian Thomas of the SportsBusiness Journal talking about the deal.

“In 1991, we got $200,000 a show, which went into the prize funds,” former PBA Commissioner Mark Gerberich is quoted as saying at his 2017 PBA Hall of Fame induction. “A year later, we got $50,000. In 1997, we were paying $150,000 to stay on TV, so I understand exactly the difficulties the PBA faces.”

TV coverage will increase from about 30 hours in the 2017-18 season to 58 hours on Fox channels.

“Bowling was the original made-for-TV sport,” said Ed Desser of Desser Sports Media, who represented the PBA in its negotiations with Fox. “I think it’s a product that has been unappreciated and really hasn’t gotten the kind of respect that it deserves — it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like bowling.”

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.