Since the Professional Bowler’s Association was bought in 2000 by three former Microsoft executives, there has been a struggle to attract television viewers and maintain a loyal fan base.
The PBA was in danger of disappearing when the new owners took over, and many changes have been made in the 8 years since. New sponsors, the introduction of an “exempt field” (58 set bowlers and a qualifying round to get the final 6 spots), and the creation of “inventive” new tournament formats are just a few changes that have brought in many new viewers.
However, some “diehard” PBA fans have referred to the new formats as “circus-like” and that they destroy the respect that they feel the professional bowlers deserve. The new formats are intended to draw in new, casual viewers with fun, creative bowling that is both exciting and entertaining. This has irked some old school fans, but current pro bowler Jeff Carter of Springfield, Ill. says, “The PBA is trying to market the Tour to all viewers. The educational side of it is obviously going to be the key … through formats and special events, the PBA's goal is to create a buzz in the sport to attract not only viewers, but potential sponsors as well.”
With this new way of marketing the PBA to casual viewers, anything could happen. The PBA could continue to grow as it has since the new owners took over, or the viewers that have kept the organization afloat for 50 years could leave. Theo Douthit, who posts on the bowling message forum BallReviews.com, summed up the view of many bowling fans, “The new era is going to be either a huge hit, or a huge flop.”
The Professional Bowler’s Association is televised at 12:00 PM on Sunday’s from October through April on ESPN. Game by game updates of qualifying can be found during the week on PBA.com.