PokerGO, CBS All Access Divvy Up Streaming of WSOP
27 May 2019
PokerBrave (1056 articles)

ust a short decade or so ago ESPN, acquiescing to the fact that poker fans wanted to watch the action live rather than on tape, brought the World Series of Poker to viewers on pay-per-view. With the advent of streaming, the 24/7 poker channel PokerGO took that banner up over the past couple of years. Now, in a major move, PokerGO is teaming up with another streaming outlet to try to expand viewership of poker’s biggest event.

PokerGO Shows a Few, CBS All Access Gets Much

Under an agreement announced yesterday, PokerGO will be sharing the streaming rights of the WSOP with the upstart television streaming outlet CBS All Access. Over the seven-week run of the WSOP, PokerGO will be responsible for providing 41 days of live coverage of poker’s premiere event, with much of the action being final table access. Viewers will have some familiar faces to take them through the streaming access as Lon McEachern, Ali Nejad and David Tuchman will provide play-by-play and commentary.

Poker fans might not be so excited with the proposed schedule by PokerGO and CBS All Access. Although PokerGO will be on hand for the 41 days of play, CBS All Access will exclusively receive 25 of those days for their platform. PokerGO will be broadcasting a sparse eight days of play and the final eight days will be aired on the CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports Digital platforms. Also eliminated is the popular Twitch stream from 2018, where many poker fans watched the WSOP for free.

“The World Series of Poker, which is the pinnacle of the game, will be a fantastic addition to our digital and cable channels,” Dan Weinberg, the Executive Vice President of Programming for CBS Sports, stated during the announcement. “We’re very pleased to bring this engaging content to poker fans across platforms.”

Sam Simmons, the President of Poker Central (the ownership behind PokerGO), was also excited about the new deal. “The reach and position of CBS across digital and cable platforms make this the perfect partnership for reaching devoted fans and new audiences. This summer’s WSOP bracelet event coverage will further our ongoing strategy of expanding distribution of the most exciting live poker events.”

CBS All Access is a subscription service (exactly like PokerGO) which costs $5.99 per month. Along with the $9.99 that poker fans pay for the PokerGO subscription, that would mean that people who want to watch the action at the WSOP “plausibly live” (the proceedings are on a 30-minute delay per direction of the Nevada Gaming Commission) are going to have to pay about $16 per month just to satisfy their poker Jones. Poker Central has provided a full schedule of the plans for their coverage of the 2019 WSOP at their website.

The Future of Television?

It is arguable that the actions by CBS – and even PokerGO’s very existence – could be the future of television and cable. CBS All Access allows the media conglomerate to control their replay rights of their properties like Star Trek: Discovery, The Amazing Race, Survivor and other series and live events instead of farming them off to streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime. It also allows CBS to earn some revenues from those efforts. PokerGO tried to make it as a cable network with questionable success before it deviated from those efforts and went the streaming route.

The move to streaming outlets is reflected in declining cable subscriptions. Since 2013, cable television subscriptions have declined from 102.6 million households to 92.1 million (2018). This has resulted in millions of dollars in losses and the rise of the streaming services, which provide the viewers with the channels and programming they want instead of paying high fees for channels that they won’t be watching.

Streaming also works well for poker, albeit that can be a good and a bad thing. Poker fans can watch in nearly a live situation action from their favorite tournaments. This is a double-edged sword, however, as people get to see the “warts and all” coverage of a poker tournament, which can sometimes enter a molasses-slow pace at points, featuring little dramatic action that usually is provided by highly edited two hour “highlight packages” that used to be the norm.