Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Will the Game Show Network Cancel High Stakes Poker and the World Poker Tour?

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Out of all the different poker programs out there, I always thought that High Stakes Poker stood out as the best of the bunch. If you're a fan, soak it up while you can. It might not be around anymore.

Pokerati has become the Drudge Report of poker recently. They were the first to break the story... High Stakes Poker Canceled?

Yes, it appears that the future of HSP on GSN is bleak. Pokerati contacted AJ Benza, co-host of HSP, about the rumor. He said, "Far as Gabe and I know... the show isnt coming back. Apparently... the network is going to go in a different direction... If you ask me... they're treating us like shit. All we ever did was make them a bunch of money."

You have to wonder if the future of the World Poker Tour is tied in with a big decision that the suits at the Game Show Network have to make in a few weeks, specifically, if they will renew the WPT.

Of course, Oliver Tse was on the ball and added an interesting comment over at Pokerati...
HSP *** WAS *** GSN's #1 show until WPT managed to draw over TWICE as many viewers compared to HSP, on the same day of the week in the same time slot (Mondays at 9pm Eastern/Pacific).

Once WPT posted its ratings numbers (which were good enough for WPT to collect the first tier of ratings bonus, but is certainly not good enough for WPT to continue to sell itself as a "sport" due to the older audience skew), I suspected immediately that HSP would NOT be renewed.

The big question: will GSN renew WPT by the June 1, 2008 deadline?

The old President/CEO who was in charge of GSN when GSN signed WPT, Rich Cronin, “resigned” in July 2007. (I suspected that Cronin was ousted.)

Liberty Media, which owns 50% of GSN, installed one of its men, David Goldhill, as the new President/CEO of GSN in August 2007.

Mr. Goldhill was brought in by Liberty Media to "fix" GSN, which has developed a major demographics problem under Mr. Cronin's watch. GSN's median prime time viewer was a lady in her mid-to-high-50's who plays bingo at church on weekends.

Given that GSN paid WPTE at least 3 times as much money per hour ($150,000 per hour, excluding the ratings bonus) for the WPT as GSN had paid for every other program in its history, GSN obviously wanted results, i.e. a predominately young, male audience.

However, WPT has lost a lot of momentum from its heydays in 2004 and 2005.

Even though WPT's audience is younger than the typical audience of GSN during prime time, the WPT on GSN audience is NOT young enough to attract advertisers that normally sponsors "sports" TV programming (beer, soft drinks/energy drinks, mobile telephone services, sports cars and pickup trucks, etc.)

Even one particular play-for-free online poker room,, cut its player sponsorship program at WPT TV final tables immediately after the first week's TV ratings became available.

The next 3 weeks will be interesting, as WPTE now has to convince Mr. Goldhill to continue to pay WPTE a rights fee for WPT on GSN. The "sales job" is never easy.
OK, so the question I have is this... who will pick up High Stakes Poker?

And my second question is this... who will pick up the WPT if GSN doesn't renew?

Fox Sports? ESPN? Versus? The Oxygen Network? ESPN8?

There's an idea. The Ocho can be the new home of wayward poker shows.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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