Rio Sports Broadens Sports Broadcasting 


Rio Sports Broadens Sports Broadcasting 

Joe Bowling prepares to broadcast a high school girls' game at Harlingen South High School on Rio Sports Live.
Joe Bowling prepares to broadcast a high school girls’ game at Harlingen South High School on Rio Sports Live.

Joe Bowling grew up a Midwest kid listening to his heroes.

It was the voices of legendary baseball broadcasters Jack Buck and Harry Carey that carried into Bowling’s home in southeast Missouri. He was a baseball-crazed kid following his beloved St. Louis Cardinals.

“It got into my blood,” Bowling said of his love for sports and broadcasting.

Those influences play out today as Bowling calls Rio Grande Valley sporting events on his Rio Sports Live network. It is an operation he began from an $8 tripod, $19 Wal-Mart headsets and a laptop with the capability to broadcast 12 games at once. Bowling has now broadcast more than 800 games on Facebook and YouTube since his first game two years ago at St. Joseph Academy in Brownsville.

Joe Bowling at Harlingen South gym waiting to do varsity girls game.
Joe Bowling at Harlingen South gym waiting to do varsity girls game.

Exploring new avenues

Rio Sports Live has a combined 20 million minutes viewed on Facebook and YouTube since launching in November 2017.

“I’m light years ahead of where I thought I’d be,” Bowling said of Rio Sports. It now has 28 advertisers and a major auto dealer sponsor.

The two-year progression of Bowling’s Rio Sports demonstrates how quickly consumers are embracing live streaming while continuing to move away from traditional broadcast media. Bowling knew the constraints of legacy media during three-minute broadcasts as a KGBT-TV sports anchorman earlier this decade.

These days, on Rio Sports, he gives five-minute-plus highlights of local games in addition to the hundreds of games he broadcasts. Bowling lights up when he talks about the possibilities of social media platforms and a new partnership with VTX1. Rio Sports will utilize the Raymondville facilities of the phone and Internet service company to someday broadcast sportscasts.

“That’s where we’re going,” Bowling says of Valley fans soon being able to use the VTX1 Internet app as a gateway to Valley sports programming. It will include interview shows and extended highlights featuring local athletes. 

Live streaming with a radio twist

He brings old school sensibilities to the opportunities social media presents. Bowling cut his broadcasting teeth by calling thousands of high school games in his native Missouri. The radio style of broadcasting games is evident in his Rio Sports broadcasting. He brings out that style from his boyhood heroes calling Cardinal games.

“Play-by-play (broadcasting) is my passion,” he said. “Hearing all those games on the radio growing up truly set me in that direction.”

The platforms of Rio Sports and the versatility of Bowling’s operations allows him to move quickly from game-to-game. By around mid-November, with high school basketball starting up and playoff football games kicking off, Bowling had called 14 games that month. Rio Sports had broadcast 26 games in all – from small towns to the larger stadiums and gyms.

Bowling takes great pride in going to the smaller communities to broadcast games and the fact that he airs as many girls’ athletic events as games featuring boys. It’s bringing a reach and fairness to local sports broadcasting not known before in the Valley. It just took a guy from Missouri to do it.

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a Rio Grande Valley native and journalist who has worked as a reporter, editor and publisher at Texas newspapers. Cavazos formerly worked as a reporter and editorial writer at The Brownsville Herald, Dallas Times Herald, Corpus Christi Caller-Times and San Antonio Light. He served as editor of The Monitor in McAllen from 1991-1998 and from there served for 15 years as publisher at The Herald in Brownsville. Cavazos has been providing content for the Valley Business Report since 2018.