Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who in the Heck Watches Poker on TV?

Well that would be me. And probably you. And a whole heck of a lot of other people, too.

Despite my family’s misgivings about, both, my Twitter ramblings and my love for poker, I apparently was not alone in my love-fest for this year's ESPN WSOP coverage. They done good and viewers are responding. And sure, while hardcore American fans (who can no longer play online poker) constitute a large majority of these numbers, it seems to me that it can't just be fans who are watching.  Per PokerNewsReport,
The most up-to-date Nielsen ratings – which is an audience measurement system used in the USA – show that the 10 programmes aired on ESPN2 gained an average 0.4 household coverage rating. To you and me, that’s about 351,000 households and 415,000 people watching each episode. But the figures for ESPN’s primetime airing are even more spectacular, with a 0.5 rating as 646,000 viewers tuned in, while people who watched the broadcasts on the Internet via ESPN3 enjoyed an astounding 23 million minutes of programming. ESPN’s senior director of programming and acquisitions, Doug White, was certainly thrilled by the numbers, saying that the channel liked “how the show looked from a production standpoint and from a ratings standpoint”. In fact, as White pointed out, “these shows performed very well against the early morning (1-5am ET) average, increasing by around 136% overall”.
Personally, I'm going to watch the coverage no matter what. I love poker and since I had just returned from my Vegas trip, my heart was still burning with the addiction - ESPN's line-up was a terrific fix. 

I wasn't the only one, though. At my weekly home game this past Friday, I was pleasantly surprised to hear several other players (female, to boot!) confessing that, like me, they'd stayed up til 4 in the morning  to watch hands, listen to commentary, and wait it out til the bitter end to see just who would make up the November Nine. There were a lot of us and, once again, I was reminded of @JoeTall's sardonic "yeah, Poker's dead alright" comment.

Even the non-poker playing/loving members of my household were riveted by the battle unfolding on the screen. We made a game of guessing who was holding what and would sweat the amount of money riding on each decision, as though we were there. It was great fun.

I'm glad I wasn't alone. In fact, watching the coverage while chatting about it on Twitter was sublime. And while I can't be positive, I'm pretty sure we made our voices heard on at least one night of coverage when we somehow got Olivier Busquet back on the panel. How great is he? (thank you @barizzio for the link) Every time he and @TuckonSports spoke, I felt like I was watching a DeucesCracked educational video.

I know I'm not the only one loving on this coverage, but let me not be the last to say - thanks, ESPN. You guys rock. I hope everyone (@LonMcEachern, @MagicAntonio, @KaraOtr, @NormanChad, @TuckOnSports) will be back, but especially @OlivierBusquet. Because I need all the free training I can get.    

Guess I better clear out my DVR because I don't want to miss a thing. 


  1. I don't have tv at home anymore and really miss watching poker. I was thrilled with the live streaming on the WSOP website and watched whenever I had the chance.

  2. We don't have TV at our home either but I was glued to my computer watching all of the ESPN3 broadcasts. I learned so much by listening to the announcers as you did. I hope they keep up the broadcasts.

  3. The comments from my low buy in home game crowd tend to be very similar to your experience. People loved the high quality coverage and expert analysis. By adding in the limited hole card information ESPN turned the very stale but glossy Don and Norm show into a true poker experience. Not knowing hole cards and having the experts analyze hands was a brilliant twist for post Black Friday poker.


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