According to TVByTheNumbers.com, the number of viewers tuned into the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event fell 30% this year to 1.563 million. Last year, 2.2 million viewers watched the spectacle, which airs annually on ESPN. On Tuesday, ESPN aired the final table in the 10:00pm ET time slot, whereas past installments had been shown one hour prior at 9:00pm ET.
The broadcast scored a 0.6 rating among adults age 18 to 49, a key demographic for mainstream advertisers. In addition, a total of 1.1 million households tuned into the 125-minute broadcast that saw Jonathan Duhamel become the first WSOP Main Event champion from Canada. Duhamel bested the second largest Main Event field ever assembled and trumped Floridian John Racener heads-up to pull down an $8.9 million grand prize. For his troubles, Racener earned $5.5 million.
Duhamel not only became the first Canadian Main Event winner, but he also was the first player since Jamie Gold to take down the $10,000 buy-in tournament after entering the final table as the chip leader. Gold ran nearly wire-to-wire at the final table, whereas Duhamel sputtered, but the Canuck ultimately doubled up three-handed when his pocket queens held against Joseph Cheong’s A-7. Cheong 6bet all-in before the flop and Duhamel called all-in to win the largest pot in WSOP history, worth nearly 180 million. He took a 6:1 chip lead into heads-up play against Racener.
The final table lasted just over two hours on ESPN. If you set your DVR for exactly two hours, then you missed the final card that fell in the 2010 Main Event and the celebration that followed. The tournament, which was paused in July when nine players remained, took about 17 hours of real time to conclude and spanned three days. One-hundred members of the poker media and thousands of fans from around the world descended on the Nevada desert to watch it unfold.
Despite the number of viewers declining in 2010, ESPN officials remained optimistic that poker would continue to be a cornerstone of the network’s programming. An ESPN representative told Poker News Daily, “We have seen some declines in our viewership this season and are looking into possible causes and solutions. Overall, the WSOP continues to rate well among our programs and Tuesday’s WSOP final table telecast was the third most-watched program of the night on ESPN.”
ESPN officials also noted that the streaming feed found on ESPN3.com was well received: “Our live streaming of the telecast on ESPN3.com, Saturday through Tuesday, delivered some strong numbers with 61,266 unique viewers for a total of 136,600 hours consumed and an average time spent of two hours and 14 minutes per unique viewer.”
ESPN3.com carried live coverage of the final table complete with commentary from a variety of poker pros. However, hole cards were not shown until the broadcast aired on ESPN on Tuesday night. On pushing the start of the final table back to 10:00pm ET, ESPN officials told us, “We do not feel that this affected the ratings and we have in fact remained consistent in viewership the entire year. We remain bullish on poker and look forward to next season.” Prior installments of the 2010 WSOP on ESPN aired at 9:00pm ET and served as a lead-in for “SportsCenter.”
In August, ESPN and WSOP executives inked a new seven-year agreement to keep the poker series on the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” until 2018. The deal called for at least 32 hours of new WSOP programming on ESPN every year with premieres and repeats airing on stations like ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN.com, ESPN360.com, ESPN Mobile TV, and ESPN International.
This year’s Main Event was second only to the 2006 installment in size and drew 7,319 players to create a total prize pool of nearly $70 million. The top eight players became poker-made millionaires. Check out all of Poker News Daily’s 2010 WSOP Main Event coverage.