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Resurgence of televised poker tournaments
Thursday June 6,2013 : MORE TELEVISION COVERAGE FOR LIVE POKER EVENTS
Thanks to US developments in online poker legalisation, we could see a resurgence of televised tournaments
Ten years ago, poker shows proliferated on TV, but political and legal events caused the games popularity to fade, says an article published by Reuters this week, which opines that the US trend toward state-by-state legalisation of online poker has motivated the networks into extending coverage once more.
"Online poker will introduce a lot of new people to the game and I think that will bring another big wave to television," Jamie Horowitz, vice president original programming and production for Walt Disney's ESPN, told the news agency.
ESPN televises the popular World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament, currently taking place in Las Vegas, and will air 26 segments on WSOP starting on July 23.
This week, CBS's Showtime will air for the first time on TV a 2009 documentary called "All In - The Poker Movie," about how poker has come to be part of the mainstream culture.
Reuters reports that Hollywood agents, TV executives, poker and gaming executives have been meeting to discuss and pitch new poker programs, from reality shows about female tournament players, to shows potentially featuring new online gaming companies.
In the wake of Black Friday, US networks slashed shows, but then the DOJ in late 2011 changed its policy on what constituted illegal gambling under the Wire Act, conceding that it applied only to sportsbetting. That provided the impetus for many states to start considering online gambling options, with Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey introducing new legislation permitting the pastime under licence and regulatory requirements.
Larry Gerbrandt, principal of Media Valuation Partners, told Reuters that the last poker TV boom helped offshore online poker sites to drive viewers to their sites, and he observed that it will take similar investment by fledgling online gaming companies to fuel television, although he believes poker show ratings are already rising.
Comcast's NBC Universal's E! Network told Reuters that it is developing a new reality show called "Queens are Wild" that follows four top female poker players who room together as they travel the world and compete to win millions.
Ben Spector, of Los Angeles-based Tollin Productions, said he was approached by top Hollywood agency CAA to pitch the reality show on female poker players to networks.
Gary Quinn, vice president, programming, NBC Sports Group, said the unit is in discussions about different poker projects. It airs the "National Heads Up Poker Championship" and brought back "Poker After Dark" in 2012 after withdrawing it a few years earlier.
Reuters reports that new online gaming companies are mulling TV opportunities. Station Casino Inc's Ultimate Gaming, the first company to present online poker in the U.S. in Nevada, is in discussions with networks.
"We are speaking with NBC and Fox and several other networks to see what the appetite is for the category over the next 24 months," Joe Versaci, Ultimate Gaming's chief marketing officer, told Reuters.
Versaci said that he and others are watching California closely because of its size and the possibility of online poker legalisation. "What happens in California in late 2014 and 2105 will be key, not only because it's the epicenter of where TV is produced, but because it's like a country itself and can support a large poker market," he said.
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