WSOP Moves From ESPN to CBS Sports Network
Since the beginning of the Poker Boom, World Series of Poker fans could tune in to ESPN to watch WSOP episodes. That tradition is now over with the announcement that the WSOP has signed a multi-year deal with CBS Sports to broadcast WSOP events.
Starting this year, you will be able to watch both the WSOP Main Event and select bracelet events on CBS Sports Network. CBS was the original broadcast partner for the World Series of Poker, making this deal somewhat of a full circle.
WSOP Signs Deal With CBS Sports
News broke Monday on a deal between the WSOP and CBS Sports Network. Starting this year, the World Series of Poker will be exclusively broadcast in the United States on CBS Sports Network. The coverage will include 15 hours of the World Series of Poker Main Event along with 36 hours of covers on 18 gold bracelet events.
Some of you may remember that the WSOP Main Event used to be broadcast on CBS in the 1970s and 1980s as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular. This was before the use of hole card technology, so coverage was very different than it was even at the start of the Poker Boom.
CBS Sports Network becomes the exclusive U.S. home of WSOP! CBS Sports Network will be the new television partner for "The Main Event" and select "Bracelet Events" coming up this year @CBSSportsGang
— WSOP (@WSOP) April 19, 2021
WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart commented on the deal, stating, “CBS Sports has long been a pioneer in covering a broad range of championship sports. We couldn’t be more excited to see increased television coverage of the WSOP in the coming years and benefit from their growing media platforms.”
“Following our past success with Poker Central, we are excited to expand our relationship with the highest-profile and richest event in competitive tournament Poker featuring the best players in the world,” said Dan Weinberg, Executive Vice President of Programming, CBS Sports. “This deal fits perfectly in our strategy to combine best-in-class events with our CBS Sports brand.”
In addition to initial broadcasts on CBS Sports Network, you will be able to access episodes on other CBS platforms, including Paramount +. A full schedule of events to be covered will be released at a later date.
Shift to CBS Sports Network Not Surprising
If you remember, two years ago the WSOP signed a deal with CBS Sports to live stream select WSOP events. Some events were broadcast over CBS All Access and other platforms owned by CBS. Ali Nejad, Lon McEachern, and David Tuchman provided commentary for those broadcasts.
When that initial deal was signed, some wondered if it was a setup for something larger, and that appears now to be the case. Also, the move seemed a bit inevitable as ESPN coverage of the WSOP was becoming less popular over the years. ESPN didn’t even broadcast the WSOP Main Event this year, opting instead to move it to ESPN2. When this happened, some wondered if the end of ESPN broadcasts were in the future.
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) April 20, 2021
CBS Sports appears excited to have the WSOP. Executive VP of Programming at CBS Sports commented that “Following our past success with PokerGO, we are excited to expand our relationship with the highest-profile and richest event in competitive tournament poker featuring the best players in the world. This deal fits perfectly in our strategy to combine best-in-class events with our CBS Sports brand.”
Move Will Not Be Good for Many Casual Fans
I have mixed feelings about this new deal. On one hand, the hardcore poker fans will likely follow the show over to CBS’ platforms. Also, those that already stream on Paramount + and other platforms will now be potentially exposed to the product.
However, the casual fans that mainly only watched through ESPN will be effectively shut out. Not everyone has the ability to stream and some don’t particularly care for streaming. Those on limited bandwidth or have slower internet aren’t going to shell out the money to watch the WSOP.
Over the long-term, this could still prove to be a great move, but for the next few years, don’t be surprised to see a sharp drop in ratings for WSOP broadcasts.