Poker Central to Air Phil Hellmuth Special, But is That What we Want to See?

TAGs: Phil Hellmuth, Poker Central

Poker Central to Air Phil Hellmuth Special, But is That What we Want to See?Poker Central, the world’s only 24/7 TV channel, dedicated to poker, will screen a sneak preview of its upcoming 2016 original series Pokerography and the first episode will feature Phil Hellmuth – but is that what we want to see?

If you owned the subscription rights to a 24/7 TV channel, dedicated purely to poker, what would you want to watch?

There was a time when that question would have been mute. Our opinion wouldn’t have mattered. Modern life is a bit different. Netflix ploughed $100m into political saga House of Cards without bothering to watch a pilot.

How is that so?

Netflix is big business. They spend $3bn a year on TV and film rights, and $300m of that is for the production of their own shows. In a world of repeats, this is pure gold, and it relies heavily on having a finger on the pulse of your audience.

House of Cards was always going to be a winner. Netflix knew their 44 million subscribers liked watching that genre, they knew they liked watching David Fincher’s work, loved the actor Kevin Spacey…and who wouldn’t want to watch Robin Wright seductively slipping off her high heels during every show.

I criticized Poker Central last week after they decided to cut the ribbon of their new 24/7 TV channel by providing us with a series of reruns of old tournament and cash games shows that can be found on YouTube. It was lazy, it was uninventive and it was a bad idea.

So I was happy when a new press release landing on my doorstep this morning. On October 18, 8pm (ET), Poker Central are going to screen a sneak preview of their original series Pokerography. The preview is a look into the life of Phil Hellmuth Jr. and carries the title Pokerography: The Story of Phil Hellmuth. Poker Central promises an, “An intensely personal and intimate portrait of Phil Hellmuth Jr.”

This is the type of programming that will make or break Poker Central. This is the originality that they should have been smashing that bottle of champagne against. This was their launch vehicle. I know that it’s not easy, or cost effective, to create these gems every week, but there are many other ways of creating quality content without throwing a ton of money at it. You just have to get creative.

I would like to see Poker Central create a linkage between the top brass responsible for programming and the viewers. How does Poker Central know that their audience wants to see in depth documentaries about Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Michael Mizrachi, Chris Moneymaker, Erik Seidel, Vanessa Selbst, Jennifer Harman, Mike Sexton and Jason Somerville (all planned to follow Phil Hellmuth Jr.)?

Where is online poker covered for example? How relevant are Phil Laak, Michael Mizrachi, Jennifer Harman and Mike Sexton? How interesting is Erik Seidel? How open is Phil Hellmuth Jr? Where are the players who currently coat the Global Poker Index (GPI) with their glory?

“Pokerography: The Story of Phil Hellmuth is an exciting glimpse into the unique and original content that Poker Central will bring to poker fans,” said Dan Russell, senior vice president of Programming at Poker Central. “Pokerography, the series, is just one way that the network will help our viewers get to know the players behind the poker faces.” 

I have a few ideas for Poker Central.

The first is to forge a relationship with Alex Dreyfus. The Global Poker League (GPL) looks likely to be the biggest tournament in the world. They will pay its players to play, and will create tournament prize pools from their own revenue. They are also going to offer an innovative, fast paced game of poker that is perfectly suited to a television audience. If I was a Poker Central subscriber I would want to watch this type of programming, but it must be fresh: live or highlights shown within hours of the event climax.

My second piece of advice would be to set their eyes on the live reporting contracts around the world. Yesterday, I wrote an opinion piece questioning the future of handwritten live tournament reporting. I said in that piece that it’s crying out for someone innovative to come along and change the old dog.

Why not Poker Central?

The TV network could move in and create a brand new, innovative live tournament reporting experience. With a little bit of hustle and bustle they could have live interviews on the spot, live coverage of the action and ESPN style live broadcast with the best commentators, anchors and sidelines reporters.

Last but not least, stick a few cameras into the hands of some of the most exciting young prospects in the world. Look outside of the United States. It’s not the only country in the world. If you are American, and love your poker, then you won’t care where that poker player came from. I’m thinking about talented youngsters like Charlie Carrel and Adrian Mateos: young kids who have already lived extraordinary cherubic lives. Hand them a camera and let them go all Blair Witch in order to keep costs down.

I used to read my son two things before bedtime. One was The Hobbit and the other was a Marvel comic. If I wanted to put him to sleep I would read the Hobbit. He always wanted me to read the comic. Let’s hope Phil Hellmuth Jr’s interview is not the Hobbit, and more Marvel comic.


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