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Ratings Rebound for 2008 World Series of Poker

Episodes Attract Biggest Audiences in More Than Two Years

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After seeing a decline in viewership numbers in 2007, ESPN’s broadcasts of this year’s World Series of Poker attracted some of the biggest audiences it has seen in more than two years.

“The viewership and interest we’ve seen this season tells us that the World Series of Poker still has a very strong following,” said George McNeilly, the senior director of communications for ESPN.

According to McNeilly, ESPN’s 30 WSOP episodes are up 6 percent from last year (with an average Nielsen rating of .90), and its main-event episodes are up 10 percent (with an average Nielsen rating of 1.01). A Nielsen rating of 1.0 translates to 1,145,000 households.

The final hour of ESPN’s Oct. 21 episode, which saw the final 79 players of the tournament narrowed down to 27, had a bigger audience than the 2007 main event final table, according to McNeilly.

The 10 p.m. hour of the Oct. 21 episode earned a 1.44 Nielsen rating, while the 2007 final table had a 1.38 rating.

ESPN’s Oct. 28 episode, which ended with only the November Nine left standing, boasted a 44 percent increase from last year and obtained a Nielsen rating of 1.59. The last time ESPN poker had ratings this good is when Jamie Gold talked his way through his monster field of 8,773 players in 2006.
                                                                                                                                
Seth Palansky, the communications sports and entertainment director for Harrah’s Entertainment, attributes much of the ratings increase to this year’s new format, which held off the playing of the final table until all previous episodes had aired. He believes the buzz of “who will win” rather than “who won” has energized the casual fans of the game. The final nine players returned to the Rio in November to finish what they started this summer.

Phil Hellmuth's deep run in the main event likely helped TV ratings.This year’s main event also benefited from a deep run by two of the more entertaining professionals in the game, Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow. The “Poker Brat” and “The Mouth” finished in 45th and 30th place, respectively, and received plenty of air time.

Ty Stewart, the corporate director of the WSOP, recently told Brandweek, a subsidiary of Nielsen Media Research, that people shouldn’t put too much stock in this year’s ratings.

“To evaluate what we're doing just through TV ratings would be short-sighted,” Stewart said. He said that the organizers of the tournament were trying to re-energize the event and make it compelling to a broader audience, and it seems it worked this year.

ESPN went into this year’s broadcast projecting that about 1 million people would watch each episode when it premiered, a number it appears to have met based on the ratings.


Wondering how this year’s World Series of Poker ratings surge compares with other major sports events and TV shows?

Well, the Oct. 28 episode of the WSOP main event garnered a 1.59 Nielsen rating — outdueling NBC’s National Heads-Up Poker Championship’s recent audiences. On April 27, NBC’s third episode of that  tournament received a 1.0 Nielsen rating, down from 1.11 from 2007 and 1.49 from 2006.

Poker is still not all that close to the “big boys” in terms of ratings success. ESPN’s Monday Night Football between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots scored a 7.0 rating on Oct. 20, while ABC’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR event on Oct. 11 earned a 3.8 rating.

But the bright news is that poker ratings are getting closer to the political pundits’ shows. The Oct. 28 WSOP rating of 1.59 isn’t all that far off from Bill O’Reilly’s Oct. 22 episode of The O’Reilly Factor, which was good enough to be rated as the third-most-watched cable news program of that week when it brought Fox News a 2.9 Nielsen rating.

Oct. 28, 2008 WSOP episode: 1.59
NBC Heads-up episode 3 (April 27, 2008): 1.0
          Same episode, 2007: 1.11, Same episode, 2006: 1.49
Oct. 11, 2008 NASCAR’s Bank of America 500 on ABC: 3.8
Oct. 20, 2008 Monday Night Football between Patriots and Broncos on ESPN: 7.0
Oct. 22 episode of The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News: 2.9

 
 
 
 

Comments

ZionKid
almost 6 years ago

Saddest part... WE GOT SCREWED ON THE FINAL TABLE COVERAGE>>> After a 4 month delay, crazy buildup, and an assurance that the delay was only put in place to help everyone... From the PLAYERS getting time to get sponsored to the FANS having a better and more real-time viewing experience... We have THE LONGEST FINAL TABLE in history and they fit it in TWO HOURS... Then to top it off HU lasted 2 HANDS... Unless I blinked and missed one... now if HU started at 10:30 pm and didnt end till just after 2:30 am those must have been TWO VERY LONG HANDS... I can't believe Tiffany Michelle did'nt pop up out of the crowd and call a clock on someone... Looks like in the end the only people that truly got a good break out of this was Harrahs... Although hasn't that been the case for some time now... till Next year people... When they find a way to somehow suck more value out of us... See You @ The Cash Games...

 
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SevenKidsPoppy
almost 6 years ago

ESPN gave viewers ZERO sense of what Monday's heads up was all about and left them with no means by which they could appreciate Eastgate's performance, thus screwing the viewers, Harrah's, and poker itself by not following through with this golden opportunity to draw more excitement into the game. I thought the point was to promote the game by satisfying the new and existing fans who were drawn into the drama over the last several weeks. Problem was, there WAS no heads up drama -- 103 of the 105 hands and all but a few minutes of the three and a half hours of ebb, flow, and tension between Eastgate and Demidov found the cutting room floor, a great chance to sell poker pissed away. What was ESPN thinking -- that Harrah's scheduling of Monday as a separate day of play and resolution of the title existed so they could edit Sunday's action only? What an atrocious job! Thank God for Nick Geber!

 
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SevenKidsPoppy
almost 6 years ago

Poker has got to get its act together, or people will say to hell with it and move on to something else.

 
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ZionKid
almost 6 years ago

They mostly have ... We are certainly in a down Swing... Question is wether there will be another upswing again... right now poker is basically multi-tabling Railheaven, IveyThunderdome, and Gusheaven all with min buys... And nothing behind!!! PUT IT IN BLIND HARRAH'S PUT IT IN BLIND!!!

 
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bmpek
almost 6 years ago

wake up donkeys this is not about you. its all about espn and harraha making whores out of poker players and not paying us a cent. in fact we just smile and take ever higher juice diminished prize pools for final table and lousy management of the tourneys

 
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ZionKid
almost 6 years ago

KidPoker drank the KOOl-AID... check the blog post "Give it Up to ESPN and Harrah's" Guess he should have watched the FT coverage before he spoke. I understand that you understand all the sides of this... I as well understand how hard it was to put it together... I come from a production background... the only thing harder would have been to do it live on a delay... I get it... but that's not the only point... For example they chose to do it this way knowing full and well what it would take and chose to do it anyway because obviously it was financially beneficial to do it this way... plus there are many othe points that just arent being heard here... I'm not about to question anyone's integrity, But how about some random players get selected for the players council or even to just have their voices heard... Not just a group of people who (no offense intended) truly do this for a living, are good at what they do, and make decisions based on that... Which although that would it seem over-qualify them for this task it also nullifies the impact of their comments as well as someone may or may not have an agenda beyond the norm... If I'm wrong Daniel I would love nothing more then to discuss it. I can be reached right here or @ Zionkid@cardplayer.com
And I want to make it clear I am not trying to take a shot at your integrity or anyone else's concerned... But seriously... When do we wake up, as a community, and an economy... When we talk about sh!t and not just comment on it... "Change we need" I can be reached right here or @ Zionkid@cardplayer.com

 
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ZionKid
almost 6 years ago

no comment... FIGURES

 
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