CBS Sports Network is bullish about its new property.
The national cable network will step into the ring for the first time on Saturday night with coverage of the Professional Bull Riders event in Manhattan. Craig Hummer and Ty Murray will call the circuit's season-opener, the Madison Square Garden Invitational, with J.W. Hart reporting from behind the chutes and Mark Morgan from the dirt, on Jan. 7.
The two-hour telecast from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (ET) marks CBS Sports Network's initial presentation of the PBR Built Ford Tough Series. The network will deliver 55 live hours of coverage this year, as it becomes the primary TV home of the preeminent bull-riding circuit, bucking off previous rights-holder Versus. CBS Sports Network will also debut the PBR Built Ford Tough Series Highlight Show, an exclusive weekly highlight program that continues each Tuesday, starting on Jan. 10, throughout the season.
With six PBR world champions -- Silvano Alves (2011), Renato Nunes (2010), Kody Lostroh (2009), Guilherme Marchi (2008), Mike Lee (2004), and Chris Shivers (2000 and 2003) -- scheduled to ride from Jan. 6-8,
senior vice president of programming Dan Weinberg is looking forward to CBS Sports Network entering this dangerous, high-stakes game at the world's most famous arena this weekend and at other stops on the PBR Built Ford Tour Series.
"This is an action-packed sport with great athletes, both the rider and the bulls, inside the ring," said Weinberg. "PBR has a very passionate fan base around the country."
He said the sport's growing national appeal was a key reason behind CBS Sports Network acquiring the rights: "PBR's has devoted fans nationwide. That's important to us in building the network. We're ready to grow with the sport and add more eyeballs."
To that end, CBS Sports Network is committed to marketing and promotional events in support of the circuit as it makes its appointed rounds.
Weinberg said the addition of PBR is the latest gambit aimed at helping to reshape the service, which was known as CBS College Sports Network until rebranding occurred last April.
"PBR is the next step in the evolution of the CBS Sports Network that began last year. We've expanded our studio programming around college football and basketball. The Tim Brando Showhas given us a nice live weekday anchor," said Weinberg. "We've also built out pro sports presence with Major League Lacrosse and National Lacrosse League. PBR is our latest top-level addition."
Event coverage is scheduled throughout the week, but primarily on weekends into October and the PBR World Finals from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. CBS Sports Network will encore much of the action, supplemented by the aforementioned Tuesday highlights show.
"We want to serve PBR fans, and give them opportunities to watch the action, one, two or three times,' Weinberg said.
Through the multiyear rights agreement, CBS Sports also will expand its PBR coverage with eight one-hour shows on the broadcast network. The Built Ford Tough Series telecasts are produced for the PBR under a multiyear agreement with David Neal Productions, led by the Emmy and Peabody-winner David Neal as executive producer.
The main PBR rights had been held by Versus, now NBC Sports Network, flanked by some telecasts on NBC. The Peacock will present the first of five telecasts on Sunday from MSG at 2:30 p.m.
As part of its PBR pact, CBS Sports Network, which counts some 44 million subscribers and is available to 98 million homes, is also serving as the sales agent for all the inventory available to the circuit through its TV agreements. Working with both official circuit sponsors and general advertisers to deliver integrated sponsorship and media packages, the network has corralled a good amount of business to date, reporting a virtual commercial sell-out for the first four events.