This Channel Could be Bowling Brands Over
Move over, Ralph Kramden. Bowling is becoming one of the most popular activities in the United States.
According to data released last year from Ipsos, it was among the most “played” sports in 2022. Right after Cornhole, which 20% of Americans played, bowling drew 19%. Swimming was third at 18%. Statista posits that about 45 million Americans of all ages go bowling each year.
However, BCTV (Bowling Center Television) puts the number of American bowlers at 67 million, also corroborated by BOWL.com. That rise in number from 2022 signals a growing enthusiasm for rolling bowling balls of varying weights down a lane to knock over some pins. BOWL.com traces the history of bowling back to ancient Egypt. If it was good enough for Cleopatra, it’s even better for Americans.
And now you know why the BCTV network was launched this year. BCTV is a DOOH/CTV network and the result of a collaboration between Strike Ten Entertainment (STE), the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America (BPAA), and Equity Sports Partners. That’s a lot of acronyms for a past time thought of as humble, blue-collar, family-friendly game. Together these organizations announced the debut of the channel in several prominent designated market areas.
“In terms of audience, it is important to note that bowling is the number-one participation sport in the U.S. with 67 million individual bowlers,” said Cliff Kaplan, Chairman of BCTV. “They bowl multiple times per year, so the bowling ‘attendance’ is in the hundreds of millions. As a result, we have customers that span a cradle-to-grave set of demos with interests that are equally diverse. Every type of person comes through a bowling center each year.”
Bowling is said to be most popular in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the U.S., but BCTV is counting on scaled national reach at bowling centers in cities. BCTV’s launch in New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Tampa-St. Petersburg marks the beginning of one of the largest planned DOOH/CTV deployments to date in 1,000 bowling centers.
Kaplan disputed the the stereotype that bowling is composed of a strictly blue-collar demographic, saying, “That is a misconception. Bowling is actually more upscale and [attracts the] better-educated more than most people think. Enormous amounts of money are going into the upgrade of bowling centers that are making these venues cooler, hipper places. And as a result, bowling also attracts a large swath of Millennials.”
Long popular among men in the first half of the 20th century, bowling started to become more inclusive in the late 1950’s with married women and young people taking up the sport, according to an article from the American Planning Association in 1958.
The release noted that “women and young people are being encouraged to take part in the game. Special efforts are made to attract housewives to bowling alleys in connection with shopping trips; in many junior and senior high schools bowling has become a part of the physical education program, and school buses are used to take students to the bowling alleys.”
Programming on BCTV runs the gamut of sports, news, entertainment, gamification, and consumer-engagement platform content, all short-form, Kaplan, adding that programming blocks will be supported by national and local ad inventory, as well as promotional inventory for customers that highlight special offers inside the bowling center.
Kaplan touts the opportunities BCTV presents for multi-location marketing to target and market to consumers at the local level and drive online/offline traffic. He said the idea for the network was created by Equity Sports Partners and then developed with Strike Ten Entertainment “to take advantage of the growth of digital out-of-home networks. Bowling centers across the U.S. create the backdrop of a meaningful digital out-of-home network at scale.”
BCTV is just turning the gears of its advertising and programmatic advertising machine and is unable at press time to disclose advertisers on its network, but Kaplan said to expect announcements soon of “direct-sold deals.”
Funded by Digital Alpha, BCTV is deployed on more than 13,000 Samsung screens and powered by Cisco.