Officials at Harrah's and television network ESPN will feel vindicated in their decision to postpone the World Series of Poker final table in order to increase television interest. This week ESPN released its screening ratings for the two hour telecast of the final table played last Tuesday.
The 2008 rating soared by 46 percent compared to that achieved for the 2007 final table, when Jerry Yang triumphed in the traditional non-stop climax to the whole WSOP series.
Translated into viewers, the rating means that 2.36 million viewers in 1.91 million households were glued to their television sets each "average minute." That represents increases of 53 percent and 52 percent respectively over the same period last year, when the numbers were 1.55 million viewers in 1.25 million households.
Last Sunday, the nine finalists again took their seats after a 117 day break, attracting large numbers of railbirds to the Rio to see who would survive to the final heads up. The two proved to be Ivan Demidov and Peter Eastgate (see previous InfoPowa reports), and they returned on Monday night to decide the final winner – Eastgate.
ESPN rapidly edited the final table footage, added in commentary from announcers Norman Chad and Lon McEachern, and aired the final episode on Tuesday night – a remarkable achievement that paid off with high ratings because viewer and media interest was still high.
ESPN reports that this year's WSOP television ratings overall were up on 2007, perhaps an indication of the continued interest in the game. Ratings for the full 32 episodes indicate that the series penetrated some 919 000 homes (2007: 815 000) and was seen by 1.13 million people (2007: 981 000).
ESPN spokesperson George McNeilly said: “We’re thrilled with the results and it’s a tribute to the leadership of Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and his team at the WSOP in growing poker into a spectator sport. If you saw the telecast or were there in person, then you know the crowd went wild for their favorite players. The balcony seating was a capacity crowd. All nine players were unheralded coming in and were not household names, so it speaks to the great drama that is televised poker.”