The World Series of Poker is one of the marquee events to air on ESPN. New episodes currently air on Tuesdays and are replayed numerous times throughout the week on its family of networks. On November 11th, just a few hours after it concludes, the WSOP Main Event final table will air. In a move that sent shockwaves across the industry, a delayed final table was announced just before the 2008 WSOP began. It is just one of the topics Poker News Daily discussed with Doug White, Senior Director of Programming and Acquisition for ESPN.
Poker News Daily: What feedback have you received regarding the move of the final table from July until November, a 117 day gap?
White: Everyone has been buzzing about it and the controversy of moving it out of the summertime and into the fall has been high. We see that as good because it gets people talking about poker. The comments have been positive and we have some great stories about some of those who have made the final table. Ivan Demidov, for example, made the final table of the World Series of Poker Europe.
PND: Were you involved in the move of the final table? What are your thoughts on it in general?
White: I came to ESPN at the back end of it and took over late in the spring. I had some dealings with it and think it is positive for poker. It helps shake up the community.
PND: We understand that WSOP ratings are the highest since 2006. What other information can you share?
White: The movement of the final table has definitely helped in terms of creating buzz. We also did some things scheduling-wise that have helped our cause. We aired all of the bracelet events up front and did all of the Main Event programming at the very end. It’s similar to the way most sports leagues air their seasons, with the regular games first and then a championship.
PND: Talk about the importance of the hole card cam, whose creator is about to be enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame, and how that’s become not only a basis for the booming popularity of poker, but also an important marketing tool.
White: It revolutionized the game. It let poker players and poker fans in on the game. That was the turning point for poker. Being able to see what a player had in their hands allowed fans to learn by seeing the strategy behind each player’s move. It was the missing piece. The hole card cam is also another device to sell to advertisers. It keeps advertisers interested in the sport.
PND: Talk about the editing of the Main Event before it airs on ESPN. We understand that you edited over 7,000 hours of film into the episodes that have aired until this point. How challenging is it to film, edit, and have the show ready to air to a primetime audience in such a truncated window of time?
White: Typically it’s not that hard to do what we call in the business “short turnaround,” but in dealing with this particular sport, our normal production takes quite a bit of time. You have to edit hundreds of hours of footage. Our production company is going to be charged with weaving a story out of the hours of footage it has. It’s really complex and is going to be an extreme difficult challenge, but we’re up for it.
PND: Do you foresee the Main Event being pushed back again in 2009?
White: We want to finish out this year and see how things go. It’s been pretty successful so far and we’ll evaluate when it’s over. We have had very preliminary discussions on it, but we’re going to wait and see how everything wraps up.