The finale of the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, which saw Michigan native Joe Cada triumph over the nine-handed feature table, drew 2.1 million viewers for a 1.8 coverage rating.
Last year’s final table, which featured PokerStars’ Peter Eastgate defeating Russian sensation Ivan Demidov, generated a 1.9 rating, meaning that the figure dipped slightly in 2009. Many had expected ratings to increase dramatically given the presence of Phil Ivey, a seven-time WSOP bracelet winner who had already captured two pieces of hardware in 2009. However, the opposite ultimately proved to be true. The 1.8 rating represented 1.8 million households tuned into the extravaganza, which aired on Tuesday night and ended with Cada becoming the youngest WSOP Main Event champion in history.
Last year, ratings for the finale jumped by 50% compared to 2007. The 2008 WSOP Main Event marked the first installment of the November Nine, the label given to the nine survivors in the $10,000 buy-in feature tournament. Its conclusion was pushed back from July to November in order to coincide with its television airing on ESPN and to force discussion of who would win rather than how a player emerged victorious.
The 2009 November Nine assembled at the Rio in Las Vegas on Saturday, November 7th for a 17 and a half hour marathon to play down to two. Then, Cada and Darvin Moon battled heads-up on Monday, November 9th beginning at 10:00pm PT and the event aired on ESPN 24 hours later in a near-real time broadcast. Norman Chad and Lon McEachern once again provided play-by-play, with the former ardently rooting on Ivey, his perennial pick to win the Main Event; Ivey went out in seventh place.
The news was not all grim from ESPN. A statement released by the cable station today read in part, “ESPN’s 15-week schedule of World Series of Poker coverage in 2009 included 31 telecasts averaging a 1.0 rating, even with last year. However, averages for households (1,024,901) and viewership (1,228,008) increased nine and seven percent, respectively, from 2008 and the important Male 25-54 demographic saw a 13 percent jump from 2008.” Jack Link’s Beef Jerky served as the presenting sponsor of the 2009 WSOP on ESPN, with a Wild Card hand brought to you by the foodstuff airing during each episode.
ESPN’s coverage of the final table ran for two and a half hours, 30 minutes more than a typical showing. Poker fans recording the episode on their Tivos or DVRs did not catch heads-up play, as their devices cut out after the two-hour mark. As expected, this ignited a stir in the industry and among readers of Poker News Daily. Poker enthusiast Art Manville commented, “This was a travesty and I really don’t know how ESPN could screw up so bad. After months of watching and waiting for the final table, we get screwed out of the ending as our DVR cut off. The least they can do is show the entire replay ASAP.” ESPN’s George McNeilly told Poker News Daily that encore presentations will continue to air on the family of networks.
According to ESPN’s website, the festivities were scheduled to air from 9:00pm ET to 11:30pm ET on November 10th. An ESPN representative told Poker News Daily on Wednesday how the network was responding to viewer complaints: “We went late to serve the sports fans tuned into the much-anticipated event that has been on their calendars for a long time. We regret that those Tivo’ing it were unable to see the ending, but we’ll be replaying it in the weeks to come.”
ESPN has held the broadcast rights to the WSOP since 2002 and, in August, inked a deal to retain the tournament series through April of 2018.