In an exclusive partnership announced on May 15, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has joined forces with Poker Central to provide same-day coverage of the entire Main Event.
Poker Central’s acquisition of global television and digital media rights is set to last four years, during which time broadcasts of the WSOP will remain on ESPN and ESPN-2.
Among the major changes highlighted in a press release announcing the deal is the abolishment of the “November Nine” concept.
Under the controversial November Nine format – which debuted in 2008 at the behest of former WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollock – the Main Event final table was suspended for nearly four months, before resuming at the Rio casino in Las Vegas for a nearly live broadcast.
This built-in delay is unlike any other in poker, and has routinely been assailed by pros, fans, and media members as an affront to the game’s World Championship and its 48-year history.
Under the terms of the Poker Central agreement, the WSOP will now broadcast the Main Event in sync with its actual schedule, using a nearly live format that follows the 30-minute time delay mandated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).
Thus, viewers following along on ESPN, ESPN-2, or Poker Central’s live streaming outlets can catch Day 1A action beginning on July 8, followed by semi-daily broadcasts over the next two weeks.
Once the final table has been set on July 17, the remaining nine players will take a two-day break, before reconvening to play out the final in three phases between July 20-22.
Full scheduling information has yet to be finalized, so fans should visit the Poker Central, WSOP, or ESPN websites for full information before coverage kicks off on July 8.
Ty Stewart, who serves as executive director for the WSOP, commented on the importance of maintaining a lasting connection with ESPN:
“ESPN has been our home since 2002, and we’re delighted to extend the relationship into the next decade.
Having every day live coverage of the WSOP Main Event is truly a huge commitment on behalf of ESPN and Poker Central, and we look forward to delivering to our faithful audience wall-to-wall action from the outset for the very first time.”
Dan Ochs, director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, echoed that sentiment while noting poker’s position as a sport:
“The World Series of Poker has been a longstanding staple of ESPN programming. We are pleased to reach an agreement to continue to carry the sport’s most prominent event and modernize our coverage with the new same day live coverage throughout July each year.”
Poker Central’s chief digital officer J.R. McCabe praised his company’s expansion as the exclusive provider of WSOP media content:
“We are thrilled to add the preeminent poker brand, the World Series of Poker, to our growing portfolio of poker-related content.
We have major plans to reinvent the WSOP offering to greatly expand how, when and where fans of the game of poker can watch and engage with the game.”
Poker fans can look forward to Main Event coverage expected to span 40 hours, along with 130 hours of additional Poker Central-produced original programming.
In an exclusive interview with Frank Op de Woerd of PokerNews, Stewart outlined the planned scope of that non-Main Event content:
“We’re going to be one of the summer’s ultimate binge-watch programs on the No. 1 sports channel in the world and that definitely falls under the header of “good for poker.”
But we also have a commitment to produce 16 edited shows beyond the ‘mini-series’ stunt which will air around 100 times around the year on ESPN and ESPN2. So we’re not walking away from the gold standard episodes, we’re just layering on a material increase in live coverage for the Main Event.”