- The Announcement is Made
- What the Future Holds on CBS
- Will Chad and McEachern Return to the Mic?
In a year of seismic changes to the poker industry and amid a global health pandemic, the shift of poker’s flagship annual event from one television channel to another may not seem like a big deal, but this is the World Series of Poker. The announcement that a multi-year deal will see the WSOP move from its home at ESPN to CBS is an important one.
Let’s break down why changing the channel for the world’s most iconic poker tournament is anything but the flick of a button.
The Announcement is Made
It’s been quite a year for the World Series of Poker, poker’s oldest tournament brand. From the launch of the WSOP Online Series on both WSOP.com and GGPoker to a Hybrid Event at the turn of the year that crowned Argentinian player Damian Salas as the world champion, things are never dull in the World Series of Poker.
The latest move is a multi-year deal signed with CBS and a shift from ESPN coverage after 34 years. That coverage began in 1987 with Johnny Chan, a.k.a. The Orient Express, winning the WSOP Main Event.
While that partnership ended in TV terms in 2019 with Hossein Ensan beating Dario Sammartino to the top prize, the alliance was still in place until the CBS deal went through this week.
What the Future Holds on CBS
After almost two decades of ESPN coverage to call on, the World Series is on the move, but you may or may not know that CBS was its first home. Way back in the 1970’s, the World Series of Poker appeared as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular output and Dan Weinberg, CBS Sports’ Executive Vice President of Programming, was delighted with the return of the World Series to the channel.
“Following our past success with Poker Central, we are excited to expand our relationship with the highest-profile and richest event in competitive tournament poker featuring the best players in the world,” he said. This deal fits perfectly in our strategy to combine best-in-class events with our CBS Sports brand.”
There’s no doubt that over the years, the WSOP has striven to remain ‘best in class’, even under threat of other cash-rich events such as the World Poker and European Poker Tour, two events that combined with a WSOP bracelet, provide the three cornerstones of the Triple Crown, although that is something former WSOP bracelet and Triple Crown winner Roberto Romanello told us last week should change.
“CBS Sports has long been a pioneer in covering a broad range of championship sports,” said Ty Stewart, the World Series of Poker’s Executive Director. “We couldn’t be more excited to see increased television coverage of the WSOP in the coming years and benefit from their growing media platforms.”
Starting with this year’s live event, which takes place at the Rio in Las Vegas between September 30th and November 23rd, there will be 15 hours of coverage broadcast on CBS Sports, with the opportuny to ‘rekindle’ the World Series something Weinberg and CBS seem keen to do. “[The WSOP] has a lot of prestige and recognition across the country, both for hardcore poker players and just casual sports fans.” He said.
Will Chad and McEachern Return to the Mic?
WSOP broadcasting duo Lon McEachern and Norman Chad may be the staples of the World Series coverage, but of course last time out, Chad’s illness meant that Jamie Kerstetter had to step into the breach. So will the devilishly funny duo be back behind their microphones on CBS or not?
That’s certainly a relief to us, because a WSOP Main Event without Norm’s in-jokes and Lon’s dry wit wouldn’t be the same. With all the details set to be announced over the coming weeks, the World Series is looking stronger than ever to broadcast over two dozen bracelet events in some form or another.
With the WSOP Online Series taking place again during the summer, there will be another 33 golden bracelets to fight for from July 1st – August 1st. Pandemic or not, the World Series of Poker is proving that it remains one of the most sought-after poker brands in the world to broadcast and the coming months of WSOP action – both at the live felt and online – will be a very strong indication of how the poker industry bounces back after the impact of COVID-19.