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PokerGO Announces Subscription Video-on-Demand Poker Service

Are large numbers of poker fans willing to shell out $10 per month to view out original programming from such events as the World Series of Poker and the Super High Roller Bowl?  The world is about to find out, as Poker Central has formally announced the debut of its new PokerGo digital-distribution service.

The formal launching of PokerGo (available at PokerGo.com) is the follow-up to last week’s announcement by the World Series of Poker (WSOP) involving both ESPN and Poker Central, in which the November Nine format for the WSOP’s main event was retired as a concept.

Instead, much of this year’s WSOP will be aired as a “nearly live” enterprise, with ESPN, perennially the big-money dog in the equation, being allowed to pick and choose what events and days it wants to cover.  All the rest of the WSOP’s massive schedule remains available for broadcast, and a good chunk of that will form the basis of PokerGO’s SVOD (subscription video on demand) service.

The PokerGo digital platform is that alternative channel not directly named as part of last week’s announcement, more or less so it could be held back to create its own thunder.  Of course, the WSOP wouldn’t be enough to support a year-round enterprise, as PokerGO hopes to be, and that’s where the other programming already announced or hinted at enters the picture.

Also joining the offerings will be the PokerPROductions-created Super High Roller Bowl, starting up just a few days from now in Las Vegas.  Supplementing all that will be archived episodes from Poker PROductions deep library of shows, including “Poker After Dark,” “Face the Ace,” “Doubles Poker Championship,” and others.

PokerGO has also announced its first original offerings: Episodes of the new “Pokerography” and “Dead Money: A Super High Roller Bowl Story,” which features Matt Berkey’s preparation and run to last year’s SHRB final table.

In addition, some sort of cash-game followup to Poker PROductions’ hit series “Late Night Poker” will be unveiled shortly.  Per Poker Central’s latest PokerGo announcement, “The live programming offering expands with weekly high stakes cash games later this summer and additional premier events throughout the year. Those premier events are to be announced but all PokerGO live events will be produced by Poker PROductions.”

Through the coming summer, at least PokerGo ought to do well.  The “nearly live” coverage, which will be available anywhere from hours to the next day after actual play, includes the following:

  • $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl
  • $111,111 High Roller for One Drop (at the WSOP)
  • a dozen other WSOP bracelet events throughout the summer

At $10 a month, at least during the summer, PokerGo should do okay.  But whether it can survive and thrive — even at a slightly discounted rate of $99 a year — is the stuff of deeper prognostication.

Industry chatter over the past day, following PokerGO’s unveiling, sees both sides making strong cases.  I personally, would like to see PokerGO do well, establishing itself as a viable secondary outlet for productions and tours that can’t crack traditional broadcast walls.  PokerGO parent Poker Central ran into exactly that sort of structural wall in its failed attempt to launch an all-poker TV broadcast channel; it simply could not get enough cable providers to get behind the concept and pay for Poker Central’s content.

The pro side notes that “over the top” content channels are increasingly the wave of the future, and points to examples such as the WWE’s highly successful SVOD service.  On the flip side, the WWE success story might be an exception to a larger rule, because the WWE itself is a dominant brand in a unique market.  Services such as Netflix (now a subscription-based offering) continue to struggle to carve out a permanent market niche, despite general affordability on a par with that being dangled within PokerGO’s service model.

There’s also the truism that poker fans can get plenty of live or nearly-live poker content for free, making the need to pay for extra programming perhaps not quite so extreme.  That’s despite the fact that the WSOP and the SHRB are really part of poker’s creme de la creme, the type of programming that dedicated poker lovers really do want to watch.

It’s… to be determined.  We’ll find out a few months down the road how well PokerGO has performed not only at attracting subscribers, but retaining them.

PokerGO seems to have the right idea, if only it can capture that vital paying fan base.  “PokerGO offers the best live and on-demand poker tournaments and content for the fiercely passionate poker fan and the casual enthusiast alike – whenever and wherever you want them,” said JR McCabe, chief digital officer of Poker Central. “By pairing PokerGO with our existing television partnerships, we will offer unique and original programming to the largest potential global audience.”

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