World Poker Tour to Stream Tournaments over PokerGO
25 August 2017
PokerBrave (3542 articles)

In an effort to keep up with the ever-changing times, the World Poker Tour has made the decision to live stream all its Main Tour championship events over PokerGO, the subscription streaming service from the former Poker Central.

“The World Poker Tour delivers the thrilling and action-packed poker programming our audience loves,” said Joe Kakaty, the president of Poker Central. “This partnership is part of our commitment to adding the best live poker programming to our already robust library of content and bringing it to our viewers around the world.”

Adam Pliska, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Poker Tour, added during the announcement, “Poker Central shares the World Poker Tour’s vision of high-quality, entertaining poker content, and we are proud to have such a committed partner to showcase our events. We look forward to continuing to elevate the WPT product and invite poker fans from around the world to watch the World Poker Tour live on PokerGO.”

Although Season XVI has already started, future final tables on the WPT’s Main Tour schedule will be shown over PokerGO, the subscription service that can be had for $10 per month or $99 per year. The first event that will show up on the PokerGO streamers will be the 2017 Legends of Poker, broadcast from the venerable Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, CA. When the final table convenes on August 31, the cameras for PokerGO will be on the scene to broadcast the tournament live.

This doesn’t mean that the WPT is ditching its longtime partner, Fox Sports. Fox Sports will have the cable broadcast rights to the WPT for the upcoming season, with the first episodes expected to begin later this year. The deal allows for the WPT to have a consistent streaming outlet and provide all their Main Tour events live, something that was very inconsistent in the recent past.

The move does present a mixed bag of thoughts, however. On the one hand, the World Series of Poker has shown that people want to see poker tournaments live, especially the final table of an event. The WPT has dabbled in streaming tournaments (see previous), but it has never committed to an actual live broadcast or streaming schedule of its tournaments, depending on the tape-delayed Fox Sports broadcasts to bring its product to the people.

On the other hand, however, the move by the WPT to live stream its events might be indicative of a bigger problem. Broadcasting the tournaments over a network outlet is expensive and, if the WPT could bring its product directly to the people live through streaming and save money, then the thought would have to be entertained. Furthermore, if it doesn’t look as if there will be an audience on television for the product, it might not be worth maintaining.

Even the WSOP Championship Event had issues with its final table. Ditching the “November Nine” format it had used for the last decade, the 2017 live broadcasts over ESPN weren’t exactly stellar. While there was an overall increase in viewers comparing 2017 to the 2016 “November Nine,” the average total number of viewers for the three nights (615,000), the final night of the tournament saw a decrease in the number of viewers. In 2017, 741,000 viewers watched Scott Blumstein seal the deal and win poker’s World Championship, a drop from the 780,000 who watched in 2016 as Qui Nguyen bested Gordon Vayo for the crown.

There are two paths forward for the WPT with their broadcasts. If this experiment works with Poker Central and PokerGO, then it would give the WPT the opportunity to depart the cable spectrum and simply broadcast their events live over PokerGO. PokerGO, however, hasn’t demonstrated that it is the answer. Many have complained of the quality of the streaming product during the WSOP, while some have also complained that paying for what they’ll eventually see on a major cable network is a useless endeavor.

For now, the WPT will be collaborating with Poker Central, PokerGO and Fox Sports 1 for its broadcasting needs. Whether that will be the case in the future remains to be seen.