The World Series of Poker may have become famous thanks to the tape-delayed, edited coverage that airs every year on ESPN.
But for serious poker fans, the best way to get immediate, detailed information from the WSOP floor has been the live coverage available to fans online.
That coverage will be back once again in 2015, but it won’t be coming from the same team.
Matthew Parvis of PokerNews confirmed last week that his site won’t be doing the live coverage from the floor of the Rio during the WSOP this year, a role they had taken on for the past several years.
According to just about everyone involved, it seems as though the decision was about economics: specifically, the way the economics of poker have changed since Black Friday.
“There was once a day we got paid a significant amount by a third party to provide live reporting and split the traffic,” said Seth Palansky, WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications, in a conversation with F5Poker. “Those days are gone. PokerNews asked for a nearly 200% increase this year to do the job and we simply can’t justify that expense in a traffic-sharing arrangement.”
That “third party” was likely referring to PokerStars.
Parvis told PocketFives that the leader in online poker was once the major sponsor of live WSOP coverage, a situation that changed once PokerStars was forced out of the US market after Black Friday.
“If you go back a few years, our WSOP coverage was sponsored by PokerStars,” Parvis said. The WSOP was originally in a position where they didn’t want to pay for coverage; news outlets would pay them. We were in a position where we didn’t lose a lot of money by bringing in PokerStars as a sponsor.”
The aftermath of Black Friday was felt strongly in many of the secondary aspects of the poker world.
When PokerStars, Full Tilt and other brands stopped operating in the United States, they also took away their advertising and sponsorship dollars, meaning a dramatic reduction in televised poker, for instance.
It’s not surprising, then, that the loss of that money has also impacted live tournament coverage (particularly at tournaments like the WSOP that aren’t sponsored by PokerStars or another online site).
With no significant third-party sponsorship available for coverage this year, it just didn’t make financial sense for the current arrangement to continue.
Where does that leave the live coverage for 2015?
There is still the possibility that a different group could provide the service. CardPlayer would seem like a possibility, since they have done so before, and the Global Poker Index has also shown an increasing interest in providing services throughout the poker industry.
However, it seems like the most likely answer will be that the WSOP will take on the responsibility of live coverage themselves, using an in-house team to bring hand-by-hand updates to players around the world.
In any case, players shouldn’t expect that the removal of PokerNews from their official role will open up the floodgates for media to take video footage from the tournament floor or get up close and personal with players at the tables.
“We have a deal for video with ESPN that has iron-clad terms, there are egress and ingress issues, fire marshal issues, tournament security issues during breaks,” Palansky said, explaining that media guidelines will remain largely the same overall in 2015.