Poker Central Inks Content Deal with NBC Sports

PokerCentral and NBC Sports have announced a deal in which the poker-only programming network will provide content to be aired on NBC Sports’ linear and digital platforms.  According to a press release jointly issued by the two entities, the new deal may kick off with airing via Poker Central of late May’s Super High Roller Bowl, the ultra-high-buy-in event that annual draws a small collection of poker- and business-world elite.

The deal between Poker Central and NBC Sports, announced earlier this week, marks a return to TV for the fledging poker-content network.  Poker Central folded its own indie attempt to bring poker to TV after failing to achieve significant cable-market penetration.  The deal with NBC Sports appears to offer a far better opportunity, with Poker Central being slotted into an unspecified, ongoing Monday-night slate.  The upcoming SHRB, with 56 players signed up, is set to kick off the joint programming effort.  Poker Central has also promised to roll out “an expansive roster of events lined up for fall 2017 and beyond.”

“With our large slate of premier tournaments combined with our experienced team of content creators, Poker Central is creating a comprehensive platform that truly stands out in a crowded content space,” said Poker Central’s Chief Digital Officer, JR McCabe. “Partnering with the distinguished NBC Sports Group allows us to distribute our content to a platform agnostic audience.”

“NBCSN is thrilled to present Poker Central’s high-stakes action,” said Gary Quinn, Vice President, Programming, NBC Sports Group, offering that partner’s obligatory quote. “Partnering with Poker Central allows us to continue to deliver high-quality programming, while creating a destination for both existing and new poker fans alike.”

The Super High Roller Bowl is Poker Central’s most important tourney property, though the upcoming 2017 edition of the SHRB hasn’t been without its own controversy.  Poker Central expanded the field to 56 players a few months back after an extended cock-up in its original registration scheme, in which seating priority was supposed to be given to business professionals who were not full-time poker players.  The poker players themselves were originally supposed to have allowed to fill the remaining seats on a first-come, first-served basis, but Poker Central and the SHRB’s primary sponsors both appeared to want certain “name” pros to also be given seating priority, for publicity reasons.  The resulting controversy essentially forced the field expansion to 56, thus quelling most of the complaints.

The 2017 SHRB is set to begin on May 28th.  The event features a $300,000 buy-in and a prize pool of $16.8 million, making it a worthy addition to a summer full of important poker events in Las Vegas.  First place will collect $6 million.  55 of the 56 entrants have been publicly confirmed, with the 56th, a “surprise celebrity player” to be unveiled just before play begins.

Poker Central’s deal with NBC Sports, though, is the larger and better story.  It’s important for independent content channels such as this to exist, and to offer alternatives to major — and very pricey — top-level networks.  One of the key issues facing most new poker shows and tourneys in recent years is that televised coverage by major networks is often “pay for play,” something like infomercials, meaning that the shows themselves take extra financial risk.  A valid content pipeline, which Poker Central still aspires to become, offers another opportunity for up-and-coming poker properties.

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