Poker Central Signs Distribution Deal With NBC



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After dropping their own efforts at cable broadcasting to start 2017, the streaming network Poker Central has signed a deal for cable television and distribution with NBC and in particular NBCUniversal Sports.

For those looking for Poker Central to fire up content on NBCSN (formerly known as the NBC Sports Network) immediately, it is going to be a bit. According to Variety’s Todd Spangler, the first programming to come from Poker Central will be the third rendition of the Super High Roller Bowl. The $300,000 event will be run May 28-31 at Aria in Las Vegas and NBCSN will be its cable broadcast home.

Both sides were complimentary of each other with the announcement of the deal. “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,” Gary Quinn, the Vice President of programming at NBC Sports Group, is quoted in a statement. J.R. McCabe, Poker Central’s Chief Digital Officer who previously was Senior Vice President of video at Time Inc., said the company is “creating a comprehensive platform that truly stands out in a crowded content space.”

After the Super High Roller Bowl, there is very little that Poker Central has done that might contribute to NBCSN’s programming. There are some documentaries, such as Pokerography (much like the History Channel’s Biography except dealing with poker players) and tournament director extraordinaire Matt Savage’s show Inside Poker (which took a look at the major players and situations in the world of poker and usually was taped from different casino locations across the country), which might be of interest to NBCSN. There has also been a great deal of talk about other “live” programming, but Poker Central has presented little detail as to what that programming might be.

In its very short history, Poker Central has had plenty of highlights and lowlights. In October 2015, Poker Central hyped itself up by discussing many of the programs that were mentioned previously. They also hyped themselves as the first “24/7 poker television station,” but that hype turned out to be a bit overblown. When they debuted at the beginning of October, the network was only available through streaming outlets such as the Roku, the Amazon Fire and video game systems such as the Xbox One.

Other than Pokerography and, later, Inside Poker, there was also very little original programming on the streaming channel. For the most part, the network depended on broadcasting old tournaments from the World Poker Tour and from Europe (which has embraced poker on television much more than North American broadcast outlets), with the PartyPoker Premier League receiving a great deal of airplay. There were also the downsides, such as showing the old Full Tilt Poker-driven program Face the Ace that only served to annoy poker fans.

Those in charge at Poker Central always said there would be a television or cable outlet for their programming – that the “discussions were ongoing” with several outlets – and that came true in February 2016. Signing a deal with Buckeye CableSystems, which services northern Ohio and southern Michigan, Poker Central was able to secure its first broadcast outlet that put its programming on the air. That also would prove to be the last broadcasting outlet for Poker Central as, in December 2016, it was decided that they would revert back to a streaming, internet-only network on New Year’s Day.

The deal does give NBCSN something that they didn’t have to compete with the other outlets such as ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and the CBS Sports Network:  poker programming. Of course, ESPN has long been the home for the World Series of Poker and Fox Sports 1 has offered the World Poker Tour for years. CBS Sports Network has run the popular Poker Night in America for the past couple of years, which left NBCSN – other than running old Poker After Dark episodes – out of the running with up-to-date poker programming.

This will change most likely this summer when Poker Central and the Super High Roller Bowl are shown over the various outlets (internet and cable) of NBCSN. It still remains to be seen, however, if Poker Central can deliver what they initially promised – poker programming that would be groundbreaking. Now that they’ve got a bit of a “safety net” with NBCSN, we will see if they can achieve that goal.

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