ESPN was our first poker home

When it comes to the World Series of Poker on television, most of us have only known it on ESPN. Sure, in recent years, streaming services like PokerGO have provided coverage, but on our tubes, it has always been ESPN. In fact, for many of us, watching the WSOP on ESPN was how we became interested in poker. The network, along with online poker and Chris Moneymaker, was part of the holy trinity that launched the poker boom nearly two decades ago. On Monday, however, the World Series of Poker announced that an era has ended, as the WSOP will now be in the hands of CBS Sports.

This year, the CBS Sports Network (not to be confused with CBS-proper), will air 15 hours of the World Series of Poker Main Event and 36 hours of 18 other bracelet events. The partnership will extend past 2021, though for how long was not specified in Monday’s announcement, only that it is a “multi-year rights agreement.”

“CBS Sports has long been a pioneer in covering a broad range of championship sports,” said Ty Stewart, WSOP Executive Director. “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.”

CBS does have some poker history

And speaking of “long been,” even though we all know nothing but ESPN when it comes to poker television, it was actually CBS Sports that first broadcast the World Series of Poker Main Event in the mid-1970’s. Even I, as old as I have become, am too young to remember episodes of “CBS Sports Spectacular.”

No details have been provided as to a schedule yet, but the WSOP says that the Series will also be covered “across other Viacom CBS platforms.” This could be similar to how CBS airs the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, best known as March Madness. With as many as 16 games taking place in a given day, it would be impossible to show them all on CBS, so the company airs them on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV. The World Series of Poker probably won’t necessitate such broad, simultaneous coverage, but those channels could be used.

Paramount+ was also mentioned, meaning that we might all get to look forward to having to sign up for yet another streaming service should we want to watch the World Series of Poker. After the first week for free, the service, previously called CBS All Access, costs $5.99 per month if you are willing to watch commercials and $9.99 a month without ads. Customers can save 15% for signing up for a year in advance.

“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 of CBS Sports.

Poker Central and CBS Sports previously worked together in 2019, airing bracelet events on PokerGO, CBS All Access, and the CBS Sports Network.

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