Headquartered in Pueblo, Colo., PBR was founded in 1992 by a group of 20 visionary bull riders who broke away from the traditional rodeo scene, seeking mainstream attention, new riches and a livelihood for future generations of cowboys for the most popular discipline in rodeo, bull riding.
“We wanted to create a better product for the fans, so that when they tuned in they were seeing the best of the best every time,” said PBR co-founder and nine-time World Champion Ty Murray. “Those expectations have been exceeded immensely, and the fact that this sport continues to grow is a gratifying notion, one that supports all the hard work and dedication of every member of the PBR.”
The founders believed that bull riding deserved to be in the limelight and could succeed as a standalone sport. Each rider invested a hard-earned $1,000, some borrowing from family and friends, to start the PBR.
“This is the only sport in the world that I can take anyone to see, whether they know anything about it or not, and I guarantee you that they won’t be able to take their eyes off of it,” Murray said.
In 2007, Spire Capital Partners finalized a deal with PBR to acquire the interests of many of the retired founding riders and invest in the growth of the organization. Those first 20 bull riders had turned their $1,000 into millions.
In May 2015, PBR was acquired by Endeavor, and PBR is now a subsidiary of IMG, a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media.
More than 500 bull riders from around the world including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico hold PBR memberships. They compete in more than 200 bull riding events each year on the nationally-televised Unleash The Beast, Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division, in addition to those held by international divisions in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.
For every rider, the ultimate goal is to qualify for the PBR World Finals, the richest bull riding event on the planet, with the season champion receiving the golden World Championship buckle and $1 million bonus.
The 20 original founders took a substantial gamble when pooling their limited resources to fund the grassroots operation. Yet, the risk has certainly paid off. Investors like Spire Capital Partners and Endeavor, and partnerships with Monster Energy, U.S. Border Patrol, Pluto TV, Wrangler, Tractor Supply Co. and Cooper Tires, among others, have helped the PBR annually award more than $10 million.
The success of PBR has made it one of the most prolific sports on television. The premier series is televised weekly on CBS Sports, CBS Sports Network and networks around the world. In 2019 PBR extended its broadcast relationship with the network, inking an agreement ensuring CBS will remain PBR’s television home the next 10 years. Additionally, after launching RidePass, the league’s 24/7 over-the-top (OTT) digital network in 2018, PBR partnered with Pluto TV in 2021 to bring the wild west to the streaming frontier. PBR RIDEPASS on Pluto TV features hundreds of hours of live professional bull riding, rodeo, other western sporting events, and more.
Collectively, PBR broadcasts reach more than 405MM households in more than 91 territories.
On social media, from January through November 2021, PBR generated more than 3.1 billion impressions on social media, 1.1 billion video views and 1.2 billion video minutes viewed.
The combination of incredible athleticism, raw sport and quality entertainment for the whole family has propelled live attendance growth. Since 1995, the league’s premier series has more than quadrupled its annual attendance, with the elite Unleash The Beast having welcomed 612,272 fans in 2019, up from 136,668 in 1995.
In 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and subsequent mass gathering restrictions, PBR pioneered the return of professional sports in North America, holding three made-for-television events in Guthrie, Oklahoma in late April and early May with new safety protocols implemented.
In the months that followed, the league then launched the landmark Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, which culminated in welcoming back fans to an indoor arena for the first time in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in July. Backed by its industry-leading “Be Cowboy Safe” plan, PBR held nine fan-attended Unleash The Beast event weekends, and six Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour events, leading into the 2020 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast.
Relocated to Arlington, Texas, and AT&T Stadium due to COVID-19 protocols, the four-day 2020 PBR World Finals welcomed more than 43,000 socially distanced fans as the unique season came to a close. In 2021, PBR continued to propel the sport of bull riding to new heights. Among the many new initiatives undertaken in 2021, PBR announced a joint venture with ASM Global and Stockyards Heritage Development Co. to operate the historic Cowtown Coliseum and to expand entertainment programming and marketing partnerships within the National Historic District.
Further reflecting the company’s expansion in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, as part of a comprehensive 2022 schedule restructure for its premier series, PBR announced the relocation of its crown jewel, the World Finals, to Fort Worth and Dickies Arena, beginning in May 2022.
As part of the relocation, PBR condensed the annual schedule for the Unleash The Beast, which in 2022 will span January-May, with subsequent seasons starting in 2023 scheduled for November-May.
The organization also unveiled the launch of a new league – PBR Team Series, debuting in June 2022. A transformational change for the sport, the PBR Team Series, which will span June to November 2022 in its inaugural season, following the May conclusion of the Unleash The Beast, will launch with eight founding teams playing a 10-weekend regular season culminating in a team playoff. Each team will be based in a home market, playing host to an annual bull riding event and Western lifestyle festival. There will also be two “neutral site” league produced events, culminating in the season’s playoff and championship at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
PBR has rapidly transformed one of the fastest growing sports in America into a worldwide phenomenon. Capitalizing on the popularity of bull riding around the world, and the growing appeal of cowboy values, the PBR has attracted many international athletes who travel to the United States to compete exclusively in the world’s elite bull riding tour. The PBR Global Cup now offers these athletes a chance to ride in a five-country competition for national pride.
With cowboys continuing to enter the mainstream, extreme sports featuring jaw-dropping bursts of action all night long growing in popularity, world class event production, PBR’s reach increasing across broadcast, cable and digital channels, and fan support continuing to grow, the sport’s future is very bright.