Poker Central Reaches Rights Agreement with NBC Sports Group

Less than four months after shuttering its in-house 24/7 poker television channel, Poker Central has reached an exclusive rights agreement with NBC Sports Group.

In a press release issued on April 3, NBC Sports Network was named as the television and digital platform for all Poker Central content. The deal is slated to debut this summer with the upcoming 2017 Super High Roller Bowl, a $300,000 poker tournament which ranks as one of the largest on the planet.

Billing itself as the “ultimate poker lifestyle destination,” Poker Central was created in 2015 by billionaire student loan mogul Cary Katz, an accomplished poker player who regularly competes alongside top pros in high-roller events. Although he doesn’t play solely for money, Katz has topped the $10 million milestone in terms of reported live tournament earnings.

With the launch of Poker Central, Katz initially hoped to occupy an industry niche as the lone 24/7 poker TV channel. Those plans were pivoted last December, with Poker Central opting to forego the TV-centric model while focusing on online content instead.

At the time, Poker Central president Joe Kakaty told Multichannel News that producing TV content would remain part of the company’s philosophy going forward:

“We saw our millennial audience wanted more content. But they wanted new, original content. The legacy part of our business is not a place where we wanted to put our resources.

TV is not going away – it’s just how we’ll work with TV that is going to change.”

That prediction was borne out this week, as Poker Central struck a deal with NBC Sports Network which will see the channel broadcast poker content beginning with the third annual Super High Roller Bowl.

The channel aired the inaugural Super High Roller Bowl in 2015, before CBS Sports Network took over last year.
In a statement announcing the agreement, J.R. McCabe, who serves as chief digital officer for Poker Central, praised NBC Sports Network’s viewership scope:

“With our large slate of premier tournaments combined with our experienced team of content creators, Poker Central is creating a comprehensive platform that truly stands out in a crowded content space.

Partnering with the distinguished NBC Sports Group allows us to distribute our content to a platform agnostic audience.”

Gary Quinn, vice president of programming for NBC Sports Group, referred to Poker Central’s popular high-roller model as an incentive for poker fans:

“NBCSN is thrilled to present Poker Central’s high-stakes action. Partnering with Poker Central allows us to continue to deliver high-quality programming, while creating a destination for both existing and new poker fans alike.”

This year’s Super High Roller Bowl made headlines back in February, when the expected 50-player capped field was quickly sold out, leaving some top professionals on the outside looking in. The original arrangement called for 35 seats to be sold to pros, while the remaining 15 were awarded at the discretion of host casino Aria.

Aria worked with Poker Central to remedy the sellout situation, expanding the field to 56 players and instituting a lottery to determine which 35 pros would win their way into the prestigious event.

Using numbered ping-pong balls and a hopper, Poker Central partner Daniel Negreanu called out names until the 35-pro field was set. Unfortunately for fans of “Kid Poker,” the top tournament earner in poker history saw his number drawn in 36th position, forcing Negreanu to sit this one out.

The 2017 Super High Roller Bowl runs from May 28 through May 31, and NBC Sports Network is expected to televise the proceedings.

The full 35-player field of pros, as determined by the lottery draw, can be found below:

2017 Super High Roller Bowl Pros

1. Christian Christner
2. Antonio Esfandiari
3. Igor Kurganov
4. Matt Berkey
5. Connor Drinan
6. Steffen Sontheimer
7. Jake Schindler
8. Pratyush Buddiga
9. Rainer Kempe
10. Sean Winter
11. John Juanda
12. Dominik Nitsche
13. Christoph Vogelsang
14. Stefan Schillhabel
15. Andrew Robl
16. Brian Rast
17. Bryn Kenney
18. Fedor Holz
19. David Peters
20. Jason Les
21. Ben Tollerene
22. Tom Marchese
23. Erik Seidel
24. Sam Soverel
25. Scott Seiver
26. Ankush Mandavia
27. David Einhorn
28. Nick Petrangelo
29. Haralabos Voulgaris
30. Isaac Haxton
31. Andrew Lichtenberger
32. Doug Polk
33. Ben Sulsky
34. Byron Kaverman
35. Koray Aldemir