Just one day after the Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy piece on how Black Friday had broken up the cozy relationship between online poker companies and TV networks, the Epic Poker League (EPL) bucks the trend. The EPL, formerly known as the Professional Poker League, has signed a deal to air 20 hours of prime time original poker play split between CBS and Discovery Communications’ new upscale male-targeted Velocity Network. Legendary sports broadcaster (and infamous drunk dialer) Pat O’Brien and poker personality Ali Nejad will host, while David Neal and 441 Productions will produce. Air dates have yet to be finalized, but the first EPL event will take place Aug. 9-12 at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, and the championship round will go down Feb. 13-14, 2012.
For those who can’t wait until fall, ESPN began airing its taped coverage of the 2011 World Series of Poker on Tuesday night. Two episodes are scheduled to air each Tuesday from now until Nov. 8, the perfect lead-in to the November Nine finally living up to their nickname. This Tuesday’s broadcast spotlighted the heads-up “Grudge Matches”, while Aug. 2 will bring us the $25k NLHE Heads-Up, then the $50k Poker Players’ Championship will air Aug. 9. Starting Aug. 16, ESPN’s Tuesday broadcasts will focus exclusively on the Main Event.
Meanwhile, the ratings are in for ESPN’s inaugural foray into daily ‘live’ coverage of the WSOP. The slightly-tape-delayed prime time broadcasts on ESPN2 during the week of July 14-19 garnered an average 0.4 rating, 401k households and 504k viewers, while the lone prime time telecast on ESPN produced a 0.5 rating, 543k households and 646k viewers. The early morning (1-5am EST) ESPN2 broadcasts produced the biggest gains in daypart average ratings (136%) and household impressions (125%). On ESPN3.com, the WSOP delivered month-to-date figures of 23m total minutes consumed, a 106% boost on an average event to event comparison with July 2010.