For the past couple of years, the streaming service PokerGO, the brainchild of the former (and failed) cable network Poker Central, has broadcast the offerings of the World Series of Poker. Last year, there were 40+ days of action offered either through the PokerGO outlet itself or through their Twitch account. In 2019, however, that situation has been changed and it has left the poker community highly irritated – some to the point of cancellation – against the channel.
PokerGO Gives New Streaming Outlet Majority of Broadcast Dates – And Fans Not Happy
Prior to the start of the WSOP, PokerGO was excited to announce that they had reached a deal with another streaming outlet, the CBS-owned CBS All Access, to stream the WSOP for fans. Part of this arrangement was, however, that CBS All Access received many of the broadcast days. Of the 41 days that PokerGO would provide streaming coverage of the 2019 WSOP, 25 of those days would be the exclusive purveyance of CBS All Access. Eight of the days would be strictly seen on PokerGO and the final eight would be a simulcast situation between the two streaming outlets.
This didn’t sit well with many poker fans, however. PokerGO charges $99 per year (paid in bulk or, for $10, on a month-by-month basis) for the rights to the WSOP, the World Poker Tour and other “made for television” events that Poker Central has created for programming on the streaming site (Super High Roller Bowl, Poker Masters). Poker fans were peeved that they not only had to pay this fee to PokerGO but also had to pay another streaming service – perhaps even one that they had no interest in – to be able to see what they had seen in the past for the regular rate they paid PokerGO.
Poker Pros Bugged by Same Issue
If you think it was the “Average Joe” poker player that was upset by this move, you would be mistaken.
Poker professional Allen Bari took to Twitter to directly ask PokerGO and Poker Central why they decided this was a better course of action than what has been done in previous years.
Bari’s Tweet brought commentary from several segments of the poker community. Chance Kornuth commented, “It’s ridiculous that they advertise they stream all the WSOP events, then want you to buy the CBS stream,” a point that was echoed by Chris Hinchcliffe (Kornuth, however, also figures that people should just go ahead and buy the CBS feed too). Other people responded – especially after PokerGO failed to answer Bari’s statements adequately – that they would cancel the service because of what they called a “bait and switch” situation.
PokerGO and Poker Central, for their part, have said that they are trying to expand poker’s footprint beyond their own corner of the universe. In the announcement of the deal with CBS All Access before the WSOP Sam Simmons, the president of Poker Central, commented, “The reach and position of CBS across digital and cable platforms make this the perfect partnership for reaching devoted fans and new audiences. This summer’s WSOP bracelet event coverage will further our ongoing strategy of expanding distribution of the most exciting live poker events.”
There is also the probability that CBS also put some money in the pocket of Poker Central for the access. Poker Central hasn’t released any subscription numbers, so it is unknown just how well the channel is doing overall. Part of the reason that Poker Central backed out of trying to be a broadcast network over cable television were the costs entailed; with streaming, the costs will be less, but you still have to have viewers to make it profitable.
So which side is the right one? Is it the poker fans who feel alienated by Poker Central and PokerGO’s “money grab” and the shift of the WSOP to another entire streaming network, one that people would have to pay even more for? Or is it Poker Central’s drive to expand poker and, at the same time, add something to their bank? It is plainly apparent that Poker Central should have thought this one out a little more before they pulled the trigger.