TV Networks Feeling The Pain Of Black Friday Poker Crackdown
The US Department of Justice made a decision a few months ago that is having widespread effects throughout the US. When Black Friday occurred in the poker world, it was assumed by many that online online players would be hurt by the crackdown. As it turns out, other industries were hurt as well.
Television networks turned to poker as a way to pick up their late night viewership over the past decade. According to the Wall Street Journal, NBC spent and lost money on Tonight Show reruns to fill their late night schedule. When "Poker After Dark" came along, the network started gaining back revenue in the 2AM time slot.
Similarly, ESPN and Fox turned to poker to help revive slow times for network television. ESPN had the most invested, with the World Series of Poker exclusive rights over the past several years. The majority of the advertising bought up for the WSOP televised broadcasts came from PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
The two online poker giants were indicted by the US government as part of the Black Friday crackdown. That caused both online sites to leave the US market, and in turn, stop purchasing the advertising on ESPN and other networks with poker programs.
The networks have reacted differently to the loss of income and potential for danger. ESPN has continued to air WSOP broadcasts, and claims they will stay with the brand. The WSOP remains as popular as ever, with over 6,500 players entering the main event earlier this month in Las Vegas.
The final table of the main event will be shown on a short time delay on ESPN. That is expected to draw big ratings. The sports network had a preliminary indication of what the main event final table will bring last week when they aired live broadcasts of WSOP events, and received an average viewership of 400,000 poker enthusiasts.
With the sponsorship dollars drying up, it is unknown whether NBC, ESPN, and other networks will continue to air poker programs next year. Fox has already pulled the plug on any future poker shows, and has indicated they have no plans to air poker in the immediate future.
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