Cheyenne Frontier Days CEO Addresses Changes to Rodeo Format
Cheyenne Frontier Days CEO Tom Hirsig says he respects the fact that some rodeo cowboys have decided to boycott this year's Daddy of 'em All because of the new format, but he hopes they can respect CFD's business decision.
Hirsig issued the following statement Tuesday:
Much has changed since Cheyenne held its first “Frontier Day” in 1897. Today, Cheyenne Frontier Days is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and an iconic Western brand. We work hard to honor our tradition. At the same time, we know we need to continually adapt to make sure we can thrive in the future.
Change is hard. We know that some contestants are not happy about the recently announced changes to the rodeo format at the 2019 Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD).
The process of changing the rodeo format or instituting any new ground rule that varies from the normal PRCA rules requires communication, cooperation, and approval. We began discussing this change at the WNFR last year, where we met with all the event representatives to discuss the format plan. We had many phone calls addressing concerns and were very open to adjusting the format. Based on the great input and participation from most of the event representatives, the format changed from what we originally proposed. Eventually, all but one event rep agreed to this format. When it was presented to the PRCA’s Board of Directors for approval, it passed with only one no vote.
We respect that despite these steps to arrive at consensus, some cowboys decided not to compete. Rodeo entries, schedules and travel are business decisions that individuals need to make for themselves. We understand that goals are set for this year and some contestants could not make the timing and logistics of this new format work for 2019.
At the same time, we hope they can respect the business decision we made to change to a tournament style format. This format is not new to rodeo. Calgary Stampede, Rodeo Houston, The American, Rodeo Austin and San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo all have tournament formats. For fans who are new to rodeo, a tournament format offers a better attendee experience. For less experienced fans, slack is complicated, and it is hard to explain what the average means—or why if someone wins on Monday, they are not in the Sunday finals. Our consumer research shows that 85 percent of our ticket buyers are first-time rodeo attendees or only attend one rodeo per year. Our hope is that the accessibility and ease of comprehension of this format style will drive ticket sales in the future.
Also new this year is a TV contract with The Cowboy Channel, that has allowed us to increase the purses for each event from $50,000 to $65,000, for a total of $135,000 to the PRCA/WPRA purses. We felt this was an equitable incentive for our contestants as they get used to this change.
Rodeo entries for the 2019 edition of the Daddy of ‘em All are complete, we have many entries in all events and have the maximum amount we allow in six of the eight events. We also have 244 new women breakaway ropers who are extremely excited to compete at the Daddy of ‘em All. We will continue to conduct focus groups and other research to see how this format is performing, and we will adapt it in the future as necessary. We listen to consumer feedback for all products in our celebration and will continue to do so for this format choice.
This year we are excited to bring Cheyenne Frontier Days to a national television audience on The Cowboy Channel. We believe this decision will help us deliver a more exciting experience for our fans in the stands and nation-wide we will continue to grow our fan base over the next 15-20 years. It will also help the sport of rodeo remain relevant in an ever-changing entertainment industry. We hope it benefits not just CFD, but the entire sport of rodeo. It may take time for contestants to reap the benefits, but we are confident that future generations will enjoy the rewards.