— Sports

Bowling for ratings: Fox-PBA partnership a success so far

Whether it is graphics showing changes in oil patterns on the lanes or more emotion being shown on strikes, the sport of bowling has caught up with the times when it comes to putting a captivating show on television. Fox Sports and the Professional Bowlers Association have made the most of their partnership in its fourth year. Going into this weekend’s U.S. Open, which is the fifth and final major of the season, ratings on Fox and FS1 continue to hold steady at a time when other sports have experienced huge drops the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Open, in Reno, Nevada, will have its finals on Sunday air on FS1.

“We are bringing an upgraded viewing experience for every viewer at home. They’re able to understand this is not when you or I go to a birthday party and throw the ball right down the middle of the lane,” said PBA CEO Colie Edison. “They can be really engaged into the intricacies of the sport and view this not just as recreation. The PBA produces the events, but many of the technological evolutions have been in partnership with Fox. A StrikeTrack shows the ball speed, location, and revolutions per minute (RPM), and other features. Some graphics track the change in oil patterns on the lane while the scorebox updates with the maximum score each bowler could get, making it easier to understand the flow of matches.

“Viewers can more easily understand the oil patterns; they can understand the strategy of the players as they spin the ball,” said Bill Wanger, who heads up Fox’s scheduling and programming. “Another thing that is quite appealing to people is if a bowler doesn’t get a strike, and he’s trying to pick up a spare, we have statistics on the screen that show the odds of picking it up.”

The bowlers themselves are also getting to show their own personalities with pre-match introduction videos so that viewers get to know them better. Fox’s Rob Stone, a staple of their college football, basketball, and soccer coverage, is also its bowling announcer. Stone said doing the sport has ended up being a refreshing outlet for him to do something different.

“It’s a sport that I was thrust into that was not on my radar, but it’s now a part of my life that I couldn’t imagine not having on my resume,” he said. “It’s very much a happy place. For me, when I get there, and I see the faces and the athletes, it’s got kind of as homey feel for me that it’s just completely unexpected.”

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