U.S. networks bet on comeback for TV poker

Wed Jun 5, 2013 3:21pm EDT
 
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ten years ago, poker shows proliferated on TV and then faded but with several states and federal legislators moving to legalize the game online, some networks are betting that TV poker is back.

"Online poker will introduce a lot of new people to the game and I think that will bring another big wave to television," said Jamie Horowitz, vice president original programming and production for Walt Disney's ESPN.

ESPN televises the popular World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament, currently taking place in Las Vegas through July 6. ESPN will air 26 segments on WSOP starting on July 23.

On Wednesday, CBS's Showtime will air for the first time on TV a 2009 documentary called "All In - The Poker Movie," about how poker has come to be part of the mainstream culture.

Hollywood agents, TV executives, poker and gaming executives have been meeting to discuss and pitch new poker programs, from reality shows about female tournament players, to shows potentially featuring new online gaming companies.

Others caution, however, that a resurgence in poker TV needs more than the three states, Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey, that have passed online gambling laws to kickstart the game on TV again.

"Although online gambling may only have momentum in three states right now, it could be a great lead-in for programming," said Alec Driscoll, director of gaming development for American Casino and Entertainment Properties LLC.

Off-shore poker websites such as PokerStars were the forces behind the poker TV boom, starting around 2003, serving as on-air sponsors and buying air time for their own shows.   Continued...

 
Chips and cards are shown on a poker table during the first day of the 41st annual World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event in Las Vegas, Nevada in this file photo taken July 5, 2010. Ten years ago, poker shows proliferated on TV and then faded but with several states and federal legislators moving to legalize the game online, some networks are betting that TV poker is back. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/Files