For years there's been a push in the professional rodeo industry to get a more streamlined version of the rodeo on television. And now it's finally happening.
Tonight the Elite Rodeo Athletes, the new rodeo touring organization for the top athletes in the sport, will pass a key milestone in the nascent organization's development. Why? Well, the first ERA show was recorded in late March during the group's first official show, in Redmond, Oregon, the first stop on the organization's tour.
The ERA show will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 tonight at 6 p.m. It will be showing on Dish Network on channel 149, on DirecTV on channel 618. However — and this shouldn't even be a surprise at this point — Fox Sports 2 doesn't show on Comcast, so if you want to watch this event, it's best to go make friends with fellow rodeo enthusiasts at a bar or see it at the house of someone who has the right kind of cable.
Anyway, so far the tour has been a success, Bobby Mote, famed bareback rider and one of the founders of the ERA, says. "The fans have really embraced the live events, and the interaction between the athletes and the fans has been so good. Usually we're so busy during the normal rodeo season that it's just a mess to try and get to meet anybody, let alone to set up a specific time where we're there specifically so that the fans can take pictures with us and get autographs,” Mote says.
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But since the rodeo stars are just doing this tour, they aren't rushing from rodeo to rodeo anymore. (This is partly due to the fact that the organization that governs most of rodeo, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, kicked the top rodeo athletes out of the PRCA after the cowboys established the ERA, as we've recently reported in our March 17 cover story, “A Hard Ride.”) So they have time to show up at the meet-and-greet events held from 6 to 7 p.m. in the arena before each show, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
The shows are prerecorded to make sure they clear all TV standards and practices, which is why it's taken this long to get the first stop on the tour broadcast on TV, Mote says.
Rodeo has been on TV for a while now, but the ERA is trying to offer a streamlined, entertaining approach to the sport, one that makes it truly accessible to the fans sitting at home on their sofas, Mote says. Back in the 2000s, even PRCA officials tried a new approach, first creating the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour, a televised tour with about a dozen stops. When that did well, the PRCA established Xtreme Bulls, another televised tour for bull riders. TV spots meant more publicity, and the faster pace of the touring shows made the programs more accessible to audiences, who were becoming familiar with the sport, the athletes and the organization behind them with each broadcast. But the new approach was also pricey, and when the PRCA ran into financial trouble, the organization quickly scaled back on tours and TV broadcasts.
But now the ERA is on tour and each of its shows will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 in epic style, Mote says. “It feels awesome, and to know that not only are these events going to be on TV, but they're going to be shown with high quality, is an incredible feeling,” Mote says. “The content is great, they tell the stories of our riders, and they use graphics and all kinds of explanations to help people understand how the sports work and what each event is focused on. It's going to be a fantastic show!”