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ESPN Extends WSOP Coverage Rights Through 2010

The World Series of Poker has been enjoying a steady ride upwards in terms of popularity in the last few years and this year, Harrah's has pushed on the gear to bring the WSOP in league with the big names in the sports world --- think NBA or NFL of poker.

"Poker is an authentic piece of Americana as much as baseball, " said Jeffrey Pollack WSOP commissioner and Harrah's vice president of sports and entertainment marketing. "Poker is not a luxury property and we're not the NFL. But by some accounts, poker is the number one participation game in the country, and that's the market we're hoping to tap into."

To launch a media venture into stellar heights, sponsorship is key. And this year has seen the WSOP tying up with respected brands old and new with Pollack at the helm.

For one, ESPN has extended its coverage rights earlier in June all the way to 2010. The sports channel have been broadcasting the WSOP on and off since 1993, but the last few years has seen the network considerably expanding its coverage.

ESPN will begin telecasting 32 hour-long episodes of the WSOP July 18.

This year's deal will be featuring a first for the WSOP, with ESPN offering to viewers a live pay-per-view coverage of the Final Table. This is the first time a poker game will be offered to a live TV viewing audience.

The nine-player WSOP final table will be telecast starting at noon on Aug. 10, from the first shuffle until the last man standing is named champion. However, hole cards would not be shown and the coverage would be a few minutes delayed for security purposes.

Viewers can view the games for a suggested retail price of $24.95. Viewers can catch the action on their home TVs or on computer terminals through ESPN's website.

"This will be produced as with any big sporting event, including a sports center-type announcing desk at the tournament, " Pollack said. "You'll be able to taste the excitement. For the die-hard poker fans, we think this aspect will have a tremendous viewing audience."

David Carter, a professor of sports business at the University of Southern California believes in the strength of the union between WSOP and ESPN.

"Having a tie-in with ESPN is a bellwether in itself, " Carter said. "If you're trying to be an authentic sports brand, then there is nothing stronger than ESPN." He believes that the Sports network's continued affiliation with the WSOP is a critical component to its popularity and longevity.

And popularity and longevity is certainly on commissioner Jeffrey Pollack's to-do list.

"When people think of Wimbledon, they think of the ultimate expression of tennis. When they think of the WSOP, I want them to have the same connotation, " Pollack said. "Our job is to cement our No. 1 status even further and build the business in a way that it has never been built before."


09/04/2006, Monday
Sherry Barlow

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