The American Cornhole League (ACL) is currently holding (March 15-18) their 2nd national tournament of the year in Las Vegas, with live action appearing on ESPN3 (DIS). JohnWallStreet recently spoke to the league’s founder Stacey Moore, to discuss how cornhole became a pro sport, how the ACL generates revenue and how much the league’s top players can win annually.
JWS: How did you manage to turn a tailgate game into a sport broadcast by ESPN?
Stacey: I looked at the game and the primary thing missing was that nobody was doing scores and stats, there wasn’t any technology out there to bring it all together. So, I invested heavily in our software. In addition to having scores and stats, I felt like you had to broadcast it like a legitimate sport and I was fortunate that ESPN decided to give it a shot. We did our first broadcast on ESPN3 back in July 2016 and then just about a month before our main event in 2017, they called and asked if I would be interested in being on ESPN2. So, we went live on ESPN2 last July.
JWS: Many niche sports are moving towards an OTT distribution model. Why did you choose to partner with a traditional cable broadcast provider?
Stacey: I still feel like TV gives you the massive audience needed to make a big impact. While everyone knows cornhole as a game, they hadn’t really viewed it as a sport (making it unlikely they would pay for an OTT service). I didn’t think we would be successful going with a pure subscription model, targeting just the core competitive cornhole community; one that is extremely small relative to the number of people who have picked up a bag.
JWS: How does American Cornhole League generate revenue?
Stacey: We’re fortunate that we have multiple revenue streams. We collect a membership fee from both our players and directors. We have fees for each tournament, every time a player plays in one of our tournaments and uses our software we generate revenue. We also have equipment deal partnerships (allcornhole.com) and sponsorships (Johnsonville is the title sponsor) is a big piece as well.
Howie Long-Short: The American Cornhole League (ACL) has a guaranteed prize pool for national ESPN events of $100,000 and will give out more than $250,000 in prize money this season. The top player in the league made $30,000 last season.
Fan Marino: Considering my limited athletic ability, life-long aspiration to be a professional athlete and affinity for drinking beer in a parking lot, professional cornhole makes for an intriguing career opportunity; but, this isn’t a light-hearted “beer league”. The ACL is serious competition, filled with “retired athletes, guys that played high school or college sports competitively.”
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