The Million Dollar Roll: a bowling concept to capture the imagination

For ten-pin bowlers, the ‘Million Dollar Roll’ (MDR) concept is deliciously simple: three minutes to knock down as many pins as possible for a chance to win a life-changing prize.

For League Co (LSC), the entity responsible for shaping the sport’s future vision, the innovative format has the potential to be transformational for ten-pin bowling as a commercial proposition, as well as expanding a thriving global community of fans and participants.

Putting players on the clock promises to amplify the sporting drama to leave spectators, viewers, teams and players on tenterhooks. After all, each high-scoring contest is only a matter of seconds away from turning on its head due to a dazzling or duff roll.

Crucially, though, the concept also establishes a level playing field between all participants while stripping away scoring-related complexities surrounding strikes, spares and last-frame score adjustments that have even left enthusiasts scratching their heads in the past.

foundational pillar

LSC is spearheading the development of the format as it puts preparations in place to launch the new World Bowling League (WBL) under a 20-year rights partnership with the International Bowling Federation that was announced in early 2022.

LSC founder and CEO Adi K Mishra is confident that MDR will be a “foundational pillar for identifying and elevating talent to the global stage” in a sport that has “steady popularity yet stagnant growth.”

LSC founder and CEO Adi K Mishra

He says: “The MDR format is engineered to address the contemporary challenges faced by the sport of bowling: its perceived complexity, lack of level playing field while competing with the best and limited appeal to a wider, younger audience as a professional sport. By distilling the game into three-minute, high-intensity match-ups, MDR strips away barriers to entry, allowing new fans to easily grasp and enjoy the sport while enhancing ongoing recreational participation. This format is designed to be dynamic and accessible, increasing its attractiveness for the average bowler, broadcasters and online platforms, by providing a level playing field and the highest prize earnings to participation cost ratio.”

While focusing on the total pinfall within an allotted time fosters “immediate understanding and excitement, ensuring that each roll has the potential to be a game-changer”, Mishra stresses that the format will set a new standard for how the sport can grow – and not just how it is consumed.

“It’s a targeted solution for today’s media landscape, offering the sport the revitalization it needs to expand its fan base and secure a prominent place in the future of sports entertainment,” he adds. This will be achieved by placing bowling “squarely in the arena of mainstream media consumption by building grassroot stories” while the quick-fire nature of the content would appear to be ideal for social media distribution at scale.

Tailor-made content

It is pertinent that in the process of devising the MDR concept, input was gathered from media executives, as well as bowlers and other strategists from across the sports industry.

“The creation of MDR is a nod to the changing tides of media and entertainment,” Mishra explains. “The format is tailor-made for the age of streaming, where live sports compete with a multitude of entertainment options. By prioritising brevity, clarity and constant action, MDR is designed to capture the fleeting attention of the modern viewer, thereby ensuring that bowling is not just seen as a pastime but as an exhilarating sport for the present day.”

The goal is to build a narrative around the sport that’s continuous and compelling. To enhance the storytelling aspect, MDR will act as a pathway to the prestigious WBL Global calendar of franchise-based competitions across iconic locations in the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, India, Singapore, South Korea and Japan among other countries. Frequent bowlers will be able to process results via the WBL Play app, allowing them to be ranked alongside the world’s top bowlers and potentially be drafted to a WBL team.

From a broader commercial perspective though, the plan is to capitalize on multiple revenue streams underpinned by an innovative community membership model that will give anyone within the sport’s 100-million-strong community of players a chance to win prizes through the MDR format. On top of that, Mishra says that decentralized ownership models, underpinned by LSC’s commitment to technological innovation, are being explored that could potentially lead to the bowlers themselves having an actual stake in the action.

For those who excel in the format, seven-figure sums, as well as holidays, cars and other prizes will be up for grabs. “The concept is specifically designed in a way that while top bowlers will be identified, everyone will be given a shot at winning thanks to the short-format approach. Anyone in the world can win the big prizes and the prestige associated with it, even if they are just out for a birthday celebration or relaxing with friends after work“Mishra says.

WBL’s StrikeVision AI, an artificial intelligence-based scoring system, also provides a platform for “robust” data that can be leveraged for live and micro betting opportunities – an area with “significant revenue potential,” according to Mishra.

Community-first approach

Mishra repeatedly cites a “community-driven, community-first approach” that will blend the competitiveness of elite sport with the universal appeal of mainstream entertainment as central to the future expansion strategy of the MDR format and the WBL more broadly.

This approach will include diversifying MDR’s content offering through live streams, multi-cam switching features, live voting for key decisions during the play, and a range of other interactive fan engagement tools that will contribute towards an immersive viewing experience.

Strategic partnerships will be forged with sports and entertainment brands with the aim of attracting new fans, as well as driving revenues using a grassroots engagement approach with a rich repository of recurring and real human interest stories. Meanwhile, the MDR platform will be leveraged for community engagement and social impact initiatives.

For the time being, though, the MDR plans are being fine-tuned following feedback received through strategic sessions with stakeholders. Operational logistics will be refined and pilot events will be staged over the coming months before a series of global qualifiers launch the inaugural season.

“This lead-up to the full launch is a carefully choreographed sequence of events, ensuring that when MDR makes debut, it does so with a flourish that captures the attention of the bowling world and sports fans alike,” Mishra explains. “We’re committed to a launch that lives up to the hype, setting the stage for MDR to become a marquee series of events on the sports calendar.”

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