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WSOP Ratings Slightly Up as ESPN Begins Day 2 Coverage

ESPN and the WSOP Talk About the $50K H.O.R.S.E.


The Rio will host the 2010 WSOP.ESPN came under heavy criticism from poker fans earlier this year when the network declined to film and televise the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship at the 2009 World Series of Poker. After five weeks and 10 episodes of coverage of the 2009 WSOP, ESPN officials say that they are comfortable with the decisions they made. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t considering bringing back H.O.R.S.E. next year.

“The ratings this year have been good, very comparable,” said Doug White, ESPN’s senior director of programming and acquisitions. “We’re on par with last year, and headed in the right direction.”

Through 10 episodes, the 2009 WSOP has earned an average rating of .75, which translates to 741,311 household impressions. That is up about 3 percent from 2008’s .73 rating through this time period, which translated to 704,826 household impressions, according to ESPN.

While the coverage has attracted more viewers overall, some of that credit should definitely be placed on ESPN’s increased day-1 coverage. White acknowledged that the preliminary events that ESPN aired — the $40,000 no-limit hold’em event, the Champions Invitational, and Ante Up for Africa — earned ratings that were similar, but slightly down, compared to last year.

In 2008, ESPN aired coverage of the $10,000 pot-limit hold’em world championship, two $1,500 hold’em events, the $1,000 rebuy tournament, a $5,000 mixed hold’em event, and, of course, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship before it began its main-event coverage.

“When we looked at those new events, we weren’t looking at them so much as a ratings play, although obviously ratings are always something that are important to us. We really looked at it as doing something innovative, something different than what we’ve done in the past,” said White. “The last thing we at ESPN, as well as Harrah’s, want to do is be stagnant and just repeat the previous year’s events.”

Still, one event that many poker fans wish ESPN would’ve repeated in terms of coverage was the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament.

“We heard that (criticism) loud and clear,” said White. “I’m not ruling out that H.O.R.S.E. won’t be back for 2010.”

The decision to remove H.O.R.S.E. from ESPN’s 2009 coverage was likely two-fold — one, games other than hold’em have not brought in good ratings in the past; and two, there were a variety of other events to choose from this year, since Harrah’s added two new events to celebrate the 40th WSOP.

WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky said that if players want the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event to be televised, the Players Advisory Council is probably going to need to concede that the final table has to be played strictly as no-limit hold’em, as it was done in its inaugural year in 2006.

“Unless it goes back to no-limit hold’em, the event will exist, but the television component probably will not,” said Palansky.

White, however, isn’t going that far, telling Card Player that the event could possibly return to ESPN in 2010 — even if it did feature mixed games at the final table.

“It’s not so much what the H.O.R.S.E. event has to do as it is what else might be out there that we think would be compelling,” said White.

With Harrah’s adding new events like the Champions Invitational and the $40,000 no-limit hold’em event to commemorate the 40th-annual WSOP, ESPN wanted to take advantage of those opportunities to show new and different coverage.

But with those events not guaranteed to return in 2010, ESPN might have to look for other opportunities. White said he will start having those talks about next year’s coverage with Harrah’s sometime after this November’s main-event final table.

While he’s comfortable with the ratings thus far, White cautioned that it was too early to make any conclusions about what they might mean or indicate.

“We really do look at the season as whole,” said White. “We try not to get too down or too excited about the ebbs and flows of the season as it rates.”



over 12 years ago

Why no PLO? Game of the future. Snap sh** and vibrate ESPN


over 12 years ago



over 12 years ago

Another option would be to not televise any of the "who cares" prelim events and go straight into longer, more featured stories and poker coverage of the Main Event.

The televised prelim events seem to be just another televised final table, which can be seen all over the airwaves now. At least Main Event coverage is from the start of the event all the way to the finish and everything in between.

If some prelim events must be televised and shown, I would favor as few as possible with the trade-off being more expanded in-depth coverage of the Main Event.


over 12 years ago

Jeez, more Main Event coverage, how is that possible? ESPN's coverage used to be excellent, they covered Triple Draw, Omaha, Stud now it's just a seemingly never ending stream of holdem. Get some variety back in and reduce the Main Event coverage, cut out 90% of the so-called 'human interest' stories, anything with Norman Chad and focus on the game. ESPN tries to make out that these guys are superstars and heroes. They are poker players, most of whom are perfectly nice but still.
I never realised viewing figures were so low 740,000 that's pathetic when you consider how many people live in America. When you consider how much it must cost to film, I don't know how ESPN justifies so many episodes.