Updated July 29, 2021 - 11:29 am
December’s National Finals Rodeo performances will start an hour earlier than in past years in a bid to generate a larger television audience on the East Coast.
Rodeo events will start at 5:45 p.m. to enable an 8:45 p.m. start in Eastern Standard Time.
The ProRodeo Cowboys Association and Las Vegas Events announced the time change Wednesday. The 10-day rodeo — considered the top championship event for the sport — will begin Dec. 2.
“To accommodate the greatest number of fans interested in watching the NFR, the (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and The Cowboy Channel requested an earlier start time which we felt was reasonable,” said Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson.
The event will be broadcast on The Cowboy Channel and RFD-TV.
“Moving up the start time an hour is a game-changer for our national television audience,” Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of The Cowboy Channel said in a statement.
“In 2020, we were able to more than double the 2019 ratings,” Gottsch said. “That audience will carry over to the 2021 broadcasts, and moving up the start time just this one hour will help RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel keep those viewers engaged, thus creating more rodeo fans.”
In 2019, the event had a total attendance of 168,289 over the 10 days of competition at the Thomas & Mack Center and has sold out more than 330 consecutive performances in Las Vegas. Last year, the rodeo was held at the Texas Rangers baseball stadium, Globe Life Park, in Arlington because COVID-19 restrictions would have prevented the rodeo from generating enough revenue for the prize purse and stock contract.
Sponsored by Wrangler, the rodeo features the top 120 contestants in the world to compete for $10.3 million in prize money and coveted PRCA Gold Buckles. Over the past 35 years in Las Vegas, the event had attendance of nearly 6 million fans.
Thousands of people come to Las Vegas for the event even if they can’t get a ticket to a performance and enjoy closed-circuit television broadcasts at dozens of casinos. Las Vegas also hosts country musicians and several other related activities.