There is no arguing the fact that people have really taken to playing pickleball. It’s the new badminton, frisbee golf, croquet, bowling, slow-pitch softball, cornhole, horseshoes, ping pong or [insert other games you can play at a park, in a backyard or a rec room and/or while drinking beer].
What is up for debate is, despite the millions of dollars people like LeBron James and Tom Brady are pouring into it, how many people are actually going to want to watch professional pickleball matches?
I mean, if professional slamball can’t draw viewers, and it has tried and tried and tried again on channels like Spike, Versus, and Cartoon Network (that’s right), how will professional pickleball be any different?
Well, it just well, according to Major League Pickleball founder Steve Kuhn.
In fact, not only will Major League Pickleball draw eyeballs when it airs on TV, according to Kuhn, it will “be easily a top five sport in the next five years in terms of viewership.”
Steve Kuhn, the billionaire founder of @MajorLeaguePB, said on today's @Sporticast with @soshnick and @novy_williams that he believes pickleball will "easily" be a top five sport in terms of viewership within the next five years.
He says it will challenge @MLS, @MLB and @NHL. pic.twitter.com/OaKfkMNAqC
— Sporticast Media Network (@sporticast) March 14, 2023
That’s a bold statement, right there.
Let’s take a look at some of his competition in the world of sports, shall we?
1. National Football League/College Football, 2. National Basketball Association/College Basketball, 3. Major League Baseball, 4. National Hockey League, 5. PGA/LPGA, 6. UFC, 7. NASCAR/IndyCar/Formula 1, 8. Major League Soccer, 9. Professional Bull Riders.
So Steve Kuhn thinks Major League Pickleball will eventually surpass all but four of these sports in viewership?
Let’s see what some sports fans think…
You could attribute this quote to every dude who founded a spring football league in the last five years too. And all the people who dumped millions into eSports. https://t.co/Ivpu6VYQAD
— Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch) March 14, 2023
“Bet. Not a chance. #Pickleball will continue to grow as a participant sport,” tweeted Sports Business Radio. “But it won’t come close to being a top five sport in terms of viewership. People love playing pickle ball, but they won’t watch it in large numbers. Save this tweet.”
Pickleball is very, very fun to play. As an aspiring 70 year old, I love it. But, I cannot imagine intensely tuning in to watch others play.
— Moons (w/ an affordable buyout) (@GAMoons) March 14, 2023
“By 2028, the 5th annual @ESPNLosAngeles Pickleball Madness Tournament will be televised, at minimum, on The Ocho,” someone else responded.
GTFO LOLOLOL .... I'm not watching mini tennis over anything https://t.co/HxObQnGVqL
— Matt Perrault (@sportstalkmatt) March 14, 2023
“Badminton is exponentially more fun to watch, and that’s not like a Top 30 sport in viewership. This is a wildly transparent grift,” another sports fan tweeted.
Listen… if Dana White can’t make “sanctioned brain trauma” work on TV (TBS pulled the plug on Power Slap after the first season), who is going to tune in to watch pickleball?