Two years ago PBR (Professional Bull Riders) shook the western sports world with launching the new digital network RidePass to provide fans with greater access to PBR events along with shoulder programming and hundreds of hours of action from marquee rodeos.
PBR has been providing streaming access to the premier series of bull riding in one form or another since around 2013, and the new platform promised to build on that access, supplement the great coverage of the sport’s top series on CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network, and bring to fans a host of new events in and outside PBR.
To say the immediate rollout of RidePass was a smooth transition would be akin to nominating the Iowa Caucus app for a few digital awards.
The network may have encountered a few bumps, but that is a testament to the substantial number of events being covered and the complexity involved in carrying premier series events, iconic rodeos like the Calgary Stampede or full access to the red-hot Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour. The RidePass original series are also can’t-miss programming, such as the Short Go that focuses on the MBR (Mini Bull Riders) and these determined young athletes quest for an ultimate world championship.
Through the new coverage of the very popular MBR, fans get to see up-and-coming stars like Najiah Knight, who appeared on the stream last night from STAPLES Center to help analyze Jose Vitor Leme’s ride in Round 1 of the Iron Cowboy and is becoming, with the help of PBR’s crack PR team, a legitimate mainstream star at 13-years-old.
Is Najiah the John Madden of PBR? Of course not. But she’s fresh and new and different, and her bravery for getting up on a global stage to give some pretty analysis (when all she really wants to do is practice on her barrel at home and ride bulls), along with what the PBR is doing should be applauded.
Putting Najiah Knight on the broadcast is what RidePass is all about, and one of the reasons why it’s one of the freshest and most welcomed sports network.
Check Najiah in the Short Go, below:
Yet, some detractors have jumped on social media to take to task the coverage provided on the stream ever since the ambitious network was announced. You can count on a handful of nattering naysayers and ne’er do wellers to periodically gnash their teeth at the price – lowest across just about all sports streaming platforms – or fly into a tizzy if a gremlin appears and the quality of the stream is off a little.
A recent complaint was that a ride was missed due to an interview. We’ve seen social missives claiming the hosts are lacking knowledge of the sport. Or that one analyst is not from the western sports world – even though he’s a virtual encyclopedia on the cowboys and the bulls and on par with Craig Hummer, the award-winning voice of the PBR on CBS – or the sideline reporters relying on their interview subjects to explain a ride.
The fact is Kate Harrison, Courtenay DeHoff, Katie Hargitt and even the PBR Insider and preeminent stats guy Justin Felisko may ask a probing question to encourage a guest to clarify or help explain to the audience a nuance of a ride or the sport. They’re doing this to tell a story and bring the viewers inside a rider’s mind, painting a picture from the riders’ perspective. These talents prepare thoroughly and know the sport. They’re trying to make it about the riders and not themselves.
As to the occasional ride that may be skipped, I am not in the production meetings, but I’d bet the next paycheck that the RidePass team at the beginning of a 14-hour day isn’t going down a list, picking riders to ignore.
This is merely one of the perils of covering an event live. In a split-second live environment, especially in an unpredictable sport where there is not a set amount of time every rider spends in the chute, the unplanned can happen. Regardless of what was planned, a monkey wrench can invariably show and cause a ride to be missed. It’s the nature of the Unleash The Beast, so to speak, and if it occurs, it is an unfortunate byproduct of the full production that almost always comes up aces.
Remember, even the coverage on live-to-tape events that air on CBS or CBS Sports Network may not show every ride.
Yes, criticism can help to improve the product and the team at PBR says it is always welcomed to help improve the overall product. Sometimes, however, some folks paint with too broad of a brush. They seem to complain for no other reason than to complain.
The simple fact is, RidePass is probably the best streaming bargain out there for your media dollar. If you are a western sports fan you should subscribe.
RidePass has provided greater access to PBR, WCRA events, and even the next generation of star bull riders through covering the MBR in events and their show on the platform. Fans also get access to the rising stars of the western sports with a partnership with the Junior High and High School Rodeo Finals.
One of the other great things about RidePass is how it comes close to replicating PBR’s inimitable in-arena experience. You don’t get much of the irrepressible Flint Rasmussen on CBS. RidePass, however, brings fans a lot of Flint’s on-the-dirt hilarity, which is unique in all of sports.
This two-year-old digital network has improved in each event and will continue to get better with time.
The investment in the prodigious talent and production trucks is a testament to PBR CEO Sean Gleason who has a vision for RidePass to be at the forefront of PBR’s leadership across all western sports, along with the talented group of individuals who work very hard to provide the service to the fans. Without the vision and willingness to take this risk, there would be even less access to the events.
To Justin, Kate, Courtenay, and Katie, please continue to do the bang-up jobs you have been doing and providing the fans great westerns sports content as they’ve been fortunate to get all-season long.
Thank you to Matt West, who was the voice and to many the face of RidePass for the initial year and has moved into the arena as the PA announcer alongside Clint Adkins. Thank you to the Velocity crew for the awesome coverage of the Velocity Tour each weekend.
Thank you to the behind-the-scenes crews working audio, graphics, the replay machine and a host of other functions taken for granted.
For this fan and hopefully many more even, thank you for the outstanding coverage.
And remember folks, this is not ballet or figure skating.
This is the PBR.
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