New Subscription-Based PokerGO Is Going To Stop Poker From Growing

Posted on May 23, 2017

[toc]Last week, Poker Central announced it acquired the global television and digital media rights to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Now, they’re telling us we’re going to have to pay to see it.

Not all of it, of course. A couple of hours of WSOP Main Event coverage from the tournament’s first day until the final table is set will air on ESPN and ESPN 2. Plus, the play down from nine until a winner will also air live on the world’s biggest sports network over a three-day period this summer.

It’s just anything else happening at the WSOP that will be exclusively available only to those willing to cough up $10 a month or $99 a year to sign up for Poker Central’s new subscription service.

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A subscription service for the hardcore fan

They are calling it PokerGO. Poker Central will broadcast the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl, and some of the other marquee events at the 2017 WSOP. Additionally, the site promises subscribers on-demand original programming and live event coverage throughout the rest of the year.

Several reruns are also part of the package, including:

  • Poker After Dark
  • Face the Ace
  • Doubles Poker Championship

PokerGO will also feature new episodes of:

  • The Poker Central-produced Pokerography
  • A new documentary series called Dead Money: A Super High Roller Bowl Story, covering Pennsylvania-born Matt Berkey’s run in the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl
  • Weekly high stakes cash games later this summer
  • Additional premier events

It sounds like Poker Central is prepared to offer up a ton of content for a decent price. There’s little doubt it’s a good deal for hardcore poker enthusiasts.

The problem lies in where it leaves the casual fan. This move fundamentally changes the way poker’s biggest events use TV to promote and grow the game.

Are newcomers to poker being left out?

Although it remains to be seen, Poker Central surely must have some indication that this price point will work. There’s going to be enough hardcore poker fans willing to sign up for PokerGO to keep it afloat. They certainly can’t be expecting casual viewers who might stop on a poker show while channel surfing to suddenly be willing to pay for this kind of programming though.

Poker’s popularity peaked more than a decade ago. Public interest has waned ever since. Outside of the existing poker community, there’s little chance any meaningful number of people are going to subscribe. Newcomers to poker are simply being left on the outside. And there’s little chance they’ll ever look in.

TV poker at the heart of the boom

At the height of poker’s boom, the game was all over TV in the United States. Of course, most of this programming was essentially ad buys paid for by online poker operators. It was obviously a good investment at the time.

TV poker helped spread the gospel of the game, inviting millions of Americans to play online. The sites raked it in, poker grew exponentially, and there was no bubble in sight.

When the US Department of Justice effectively shut down US online gambling in 2011, all the ad-buy TV content went with it. The ESPN broadcast of the WSOP Main Event remained. However, for the most part, poker broadcasting went online. Moreover, it was suddenly playing to audiences only a fraction of the size of boom broadcasts.

Poker on TV seemed all but dead until Poker Central popped up, launching a 24/7 poker television channel. They even struck a deal to air the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl on the CBS Sports Network. The broadcast featured a number of mainstream advertisers. Many hailed it as a great success from almost every angle.

The show was everything poker on TV should be, and the kind of production that might draw in new viewers, and ultimately players, to the game.

The question is, now that people are going to have to pay to see it, how is it ever going to manage that feat again?

PokerGO? Or is poker gone?

Poker Central’s 24/7 television channel is a thing of the past that never quite reached critical mass. Now, PokerGO will launch from Las Vegas, Nevada this summer, streaming two of poker’s biggest buy-in events, the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl and the WSOP’s $111,111 High Roller for One Drop.

At one time, television coverage of nosebleed buy-in events like these would have been seen as the perfect way to promote poker to a whole new audience. Now they’ll more likely stand as an example of how Poker Central decided to ignore them.

Martin Derbyshire Avatar
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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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