The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shutdown of pretty much all activity has come as a surprise to many businesses. Although the World Poker Tour has seen their live tournaments around the world shut down, they have been able to tread water well. How? By shifting their attention to online activities and working on improving their television distribution into new areas.
Current Success a Product of Previous Plans
Back in January when the COVID-19 virus was but a blip in the news, the WPT was able to kick off one of its biggest promotions ever. Through their ClubWPT online poker site, the WPT was able to promote their ClubWPT Million Dollar Bonus. The $1 million bonus would be available to any person who qualified online at ClubWPT for a live WPT event and go on to win said tournament. This led to a sizeable number of players signing up for the subscription site to take their shot at a miracle payday.
Those new signups – along with the legion of fans that they already had in place – would prove to be useful. Although the Million Dollar Bonus promotion has had to be put on hold with the lack of live action, the growth in players – and the ability to play against the WPT on-air staff in announcer Lynn Gilmartin, play-by-play man Vince Van Patten, color analyst Tony Dunst and even Executive Tournament Director Matt Savage, who broadcast their play on several social media platforms – has see ClubWPT grow by 68% in a year to year comparison with the first quarter of 2019. New registrations have also picked up in 2020, growing by 39% compared to the same timeframe of 2019.
Things could get even better in the next month. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the WPT teamed up with partypoker for their first-ever WPT Online Series. This series marks the first time that the WPT has teamed up with an online poker room for an extended series and it promises to be a special event. The series features $30 million in guaranteed events, with a $5 million Online Championship the highlight of the schedule.
Television Expansion Continues WPT Growth
Now into its Season XVIII schedule, the WPT has a wealth of tournament content in the can and there are plenty of outlets that are picking it up. Not only did Season XVII premiere on Fox Sports at the start of March, the WPT has kicked up its syndication outlets. Since the start of 2020, WPT Studios has increased their household share by 25% in signing deals with AT&T, Sinclair Networks, Cox Sports, and others. For the first quarter of this year, the viewership has increased 125% on such outlets as PlutoTV, SamsungTV and Xumo.
“Online and Distribution are vital parts of the WPT portfolio and proving, once again, to be valuable in uncertain global times,” Adam Pliska, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Poker Tour, said. “ClubWPT is offering players the opportunity to remain competitive in a safe climate and we are exceptionally pleased with the new experiences offered to our users. The WPT TV show continues to be a key asset for global programming as new content to replace sports on television. In our greatest challenge across 18 seasons, I am pleased to see the WPT business continue to bring poker to people’s lives around the globe.” While the world struggles to emerge from the COVID-19 outbreak, the WPT is showing that they are and will continue to be at the forefront of the poker world with their diverse efforts.