Johnny McMahon on the evolution of the WPT under Ourgame leadership

TAGs: eSports, Johnny McMahon, World Poker Tour

The World Poker Tour is evolving nicely under the stewardship of Ourgame International, and Johnny McMahon, VP of World Poker Tour Studios breaks down why in this exclusive interview

The sub-conscious mind is a powerful thing, but sometimes it shoots an arrow a little wide of the bullseye.

Take mine, for example.

One day, I am lounging on the couch watching the World Poker Tour (WPT) on TV. The players look like Quentin Tarantino characters, beautiful women are dropping bricks of cash onto the felt, and I tell my sub-conscious that one day I want to be at that table.

And so, in true Law of Attraction style, I end up at that table. Only I wasn’t one of the cool looking Tarantino characters. I was standing next to them, with a notepad in my hand, asking them for a chip count.

When I worked at the WPT, there was Angela Nyman, Neil Barrett, and Hermance Blum.

I used to think: “How can a company this small make a TV show?”

I later learned that there is a lot more to the WPT than I got to see, and since the acquisition from Ourgame International, opportunities to broaden their horizons are happening all of the time.

Recently, a press release arrived on my virtual desk. It was an announcement that WPT Studios had expanded their international distribution portfolio with the addition of Powerblock Automotive content, and I got confused.

Automotive content?

What does that have to do with poker?

And so I reached out to Johnny McMahon, the governor of WPT Studios to ask him and he provided an illuminating response:

What is WPT Studios and what problem are you solving for customers?

 “WPT Studios is a multi-platform production and distribution company. We monetize our content library across all platforms worldwide. Our expansion in distribution is allowing our audience to find us on linear and digital platforms around the world and it is constantly growing with our worldwide partnerships. We will get to a place where our content can be viewed by anyone, anytime around the world. This benefits us by increasing our fan base with high-quality, entertaining poker programming and extends our brand as the number one event poker product.”

 What does a WPT Studios customer look like?

 “Our audience is mostly male and, although every network covets the 18-34 demographic, I think our reach is much broader. Our audience is the sports enthusiast – baseball, football, golf, MMA, and motorsports. Our demographic is everyone from young adults to a retiree.”

How can you add more value?Johnny McMahon on the evolution of the WPT under Ourgame leadership

“WPT Studios is giving our division the opportunity to grow. We have some very good strategies in place to take our existing 15-year library of poker content, as well as acquiring other programming, to monetize content worldwide on multiple platforms. It is a very exciting time for us as we look to the future and our growth potential.”

What happens because your department exists?

 “Besides distribution, we produce the World Poker Tour TV series airing on FOX Sports Networks in the U.S. TV is still a very important marketing tool for us and our department facilitates that initiative. Our TV show helps steer the ship with regard to expanding our brand, and it also helps other divisions in our company.

 “Our live events: WPT500, WPTDeepStacks, and the WPT Main Tour are promoted on our TV show, as well as our online gaming platforms,, our social gaming platform, and, our subscription-based online poker site. Because we own all of our content, we can organically integrate all of our products into our episodes, as well as integrate our sponsors, such as Monster, Hublot, Audi, Maui Jim, and Dr Pepper. We’re also able to promote WPT partners like LearnWPT, WPT League, WPT Cruise, and WPT Travel, as well as all of our great casino partners to our audience.”

 Why work for the WPT?

 “The WPT is not unlike a “start-up,” which I have had experience with in the past running production and distribution at multiple digital companies. Since being acquired by our parent company, Ourgame, the WPT has been able to seek new opportunities for expanding our content and reach. That is exciting to me because we have changed from a company producing a poker show to a multi-platform production and distribution company. People are consuming content in multiple different ways and just being on a linear platform does not expand our reach or our brand. We have expanded to more TV linear platforms around the world including digital OTT, VOD, and SVOD platforms. This expansion is not only just our library of poker content, but includes other content we have acquired or represent as a distributor.”

 What are your greatest strengths?

 “My strength is in production and distribution. I have been fortunate to work in television production and development and then segue my TV knowledge into running digital production studios in the early stages. I learned a lot, especially in creating short-form content and distributing and monetizing content to specific demographics on multiple digital platforms, as well as selling formats. I also have had a lot of experience working with brands and creating brand-integrated content for various platforms worldwide. Because of that experience, working for a global brand like the WPT with a team of enthusiastic co-workers to keep the brand relevant in a very competitive landscape has been a great opportunity.”

 What weakness is going to get in your way if you don’t address it?

“If we don’t keep finding new opportunities to expand the WPT worldwide and keep ourselves relevant to the community, then we will become a loss leader in the space. We have to continue to innovate and find ways of re-inventing ourselves. That is why I mentioned us as a “start-up.” If we don’t keep our TV programming fresh, seek out new distribution opportunities or good partners to work with, as well as acquire new content that complements our WPT programming and stay in touch with our audience, they will go somewhere else.

 “The WPT has a proven track record of more than 15 years, but that isn’t to say we are set in our ways. As I mentioned, I work with a great group of people, and as a company, we are constantly looking for ways to improve. The success of the WPT is a testament to the progressive strategies of the WPT and the people here that keep the moving parts functioning and working together.”

 What are your goals for 2017?

 “For WPT Studios, our goals for 2017 are to acquire more content, offer distribution in more territories, and hopefully expand in the eSports content distribution world. Our parent company, Ourgame, owns Allied eSports and are building arenas and mobile trucks around the world. If you’ve seen the massive Big Betty truck that tours Europe, that’s theirs, and it is the world’s first mobile eSports arena.

“WPT Studios will be the global distributor of the content they produce, and I very much look forward to working with them. Adding and packaging their content with our WPT library makes perfect sense. First, the eSports business is almost a $1 billion industry. Second, a lot of poker players are gamers or have an interest in gaming, and vice versa.”

 What do you value?

 “I value the hard work the production team puts in every day to create a very engaging and creative TV series at WPT. I am fortunate to be able to work with other divisions in the company and work together for a common goal. That is to keep expanding the WPT brand and all its assets. I particularly value our CEO, Adam Pliska, who gives all of us the freedom but also the leadership to expand our divisions and grow the company in a positive way.”

What makes you different?

 “First, I am not much of a poker player. Besides, I hate losing money. That is why I oversee the production budgets. When I took the job to oversee the production of the series, I was honest about my knowledge of the game. I think what assisted in getting me the opportunity to work for the WPT was my background in production, distribution, and development on all platforms in the entertainment business.

 “I never wanted to just be a production executive or a development executive. I wanted to be a well-versed entertainment executive that could walk into the room and say I can create a program, produce it, deliver it, distribute it, and monetize it across multiple platforms worldwide. I know that experience gives me more leverage than most in my industry.”

How many people work in the WPT Studios team?

 “From the production side, I work with a staff of about 25 producers and editors, not including the production teams we use in the field when producing the TV series – that staff adds another 50 crew members to the making of the show. On the distribution end, it’s myself and Rich Sarris, who works out of the UK office. Rich engages our existing and potential relationships in European territories, while I take on the rest of the world.”

Talk about the PowerBlock deal and the other customers you have.

Johnny McMahon on the evolution of the WPT under Ourgame leadership“I have known the RTM team for some time and loved their high-quality programming. We got to speaking about their brand and distribution needs, and since the WPT already has a large footprint in territories around the world, we decided both our programs fit the same demographic we were attracting. We know the same consumer who likes poker also enjoys cars and automotive build shows, so we feel the PowerBlock series adds value to the WPT and vice versa.

“Now we can bundle our programming with PowerBlock to make both brands benefit. We also represent HardKnocks Fighting, an MMA TV event company out of Canada, Fishing Gurus, Thinking Tackle, and Carp Academy, all adventure fishing programming, and World Series of Golf. All of these additional programs allows us to expand to more platforms worldwide and makes us more than a poker content company. It makes us a sports enthusiast distribution company.”

Johnny McMahon is VP of WPT Studios for WPT Enterprises and has been with the company since 2013. Before WPT, he held multiple executive leadership roles including Lifetime Television, Ripe Digital Entertainment, Endemol USA, and AlphaBird. As VP of WPT Studios, Johnny manages all aspects of production and distribution of World Poker Tour and additional WPT Studios content both regionally on FOX Sports Networks in the United States and internationally with various global networks.


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