SBD/July 26, 2011/Media

ESPN Airing WSOP Minus Ads From Two Big Poker Sponsors

Tonight's broadcast of the World Series of Poker on ESPN will not include "ads from two big sponsors that long bought commercials for the tournament" following the U.S. government's indictments of top execs from Internet sites PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, according to Schechner & Berzon of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. ESPN's WSOP coverage "will air thanks to advertisers including GoDaddy.com, which is a new official sponsor, and long-time sponsor Jack Link's Beef Jerky." ESPN tonight begins "a weekly program that will broadcast highlights from the tournament and run through November." But other poker programs "are beginning to fall by the wayside." Sources said that until the April indictments, PokerStars "had an advertising deal worth between $20 million and $30 million a year across ESPN properties and also had a time-buy show." ESPN has since "removed domestic advertising from the targeted poker sites." But a network spokesperson said ESPN "remains committed to the WSOP." Poker money "wasn't huge" for TV networks, but "it helped." Sources said that Full Tilt Poker, through a production company, "paid millions of dollars a year for NBC to air 'Poker After Dark' six nights a week as part of a time-buy." NBC continues to air the show's current season, and an NBC Sports spokesperson said the net is "continuing to evaluate" its poker programming, which also includes its own "National Heads-Up Poker Championship." ESPN and Fox since April have "removed shows, including Fox's 'PokerStars.net Big Game.'" Some TV networks "are hoping fewer poker shows means bigger audiences -- and new advertisers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/26).

ALL IN: MACLEAN'S Jonathon Gatehouse reported former WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack's new professional poker league, Epic Poker, "will host its inaugural tournament at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas" in August, and the event promises "to turn top players into a gaming elite." Pollack said, "In any other sport there are platforms, brands or associations that are focused on the best of the best. Poker doesn't have that. We're going to celebrate skill and strategy above moments of luck." Pollack added that a broadcast deal "is in place, but would not divulge details or plans beyond his desire to give the game 'a new look and feel'" (MACLEAN'S, 7/18 issue).
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