On Tuesday night, action from the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will continue on cable station ESPN. “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” has seen a ratings boom in 2009 down the stretch, with the Main Event final table on tap for November 10th.
According to ESPN officials, through 11 weeks of coverage of the 2009 WSOP, its broadcasts have delivered a 0.91 average household coverage rating, up 11% from last year, when the average rating was 0.82. ESPN coverage of the 2009 WSOP began on July 28th, when the network aired the brand new $40,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament commemorating the 40th running of the WSOP. ESPN then went on to feature the WSOP Champions Invitational, a 20-person freeroll consisting of former Main Event winners, and the Ante Up for Africa charity gala, which included actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Last week, coverage of Day 5 of the Main Event was featured during the 9:00pm ET hour, followed by Day 6 at 10:00pm ET. Each episode lasted for one hour and the first garnered a 0.88 rating. The second hour began with a rap by Prahlad Friedman and had a feature table that included 2007 WSOP Player of the Year Tom Schneider. That episode generated a 1.17 rating, the second highest of the season. Last Tuesday marked the first week that the WSOP on ESPN moved to a 9:00pm ET kickoff, as it had previously started one hour earlier at 8:00pm ET. The Main Event final table will air on Tuesday, November 10th at 9:00pm ET and run for two-and-a-half hours.
Key for ESPN’s advertisers, which include online poker rooms PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker as well as Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, are two demographics. Males age 18 to 49 have tuned into the 2009 WSOP on ESPN in droves, rising 12% from the number that watched the 2008 broadcast. Among males age 25 to 54, the number of viewers is up 16% in 2009. PokerStars sponsors the “Straight from the Pros” segment as well as the program’s on-screen chip counts, while Full Tilt Poker sponsors the “Deal Me In” strategy segment during WSOP on ESPN broadcasts. Ultimate Bet has also been spotted airing commercials on the cable station. The site is fresh off the conclusion of its annual Aruba Poker Classic, which saw Brandon Hall and Robert Mizrachi chop heads-up.
Last year marked the first that the final table of the prestigious $10,000 buy-in Main Event was delayed until November in order to coincide with its broadcast on ESPN. As a result, ratings mushroomed by 50% for the final table airing. At the end of the day, Peter Eastgate bested Ivan Demidov in front of a packed house at the Penn and Teller Theater at the Rio and banked $9.1 million.
This year, another schedule change has the poker world talking. Play will resume in the Main Event final table on November 7th at 12:00 Noon PT and continue until two players remain. Then, the pair will play heads-up beginning on November 9th at 10:00pm PT to determine a winner. The gap in between will allow time for media interviews and further study by the heads-up participants of each other’s tendencies.
While WSOP on ESPN coverage has focused on players like Eastgate, Joe Hachem, Dennis Phillips, and Betrand “Elky” Grospellier, the following nine players will take to the felts in November:
1. Darvin Moon (Oakland, Maryland) – 58,930,000
2. Eric Buchman (Valley Stream, New York) – 34,800,000
3. Steven Begleiter (Chappaqua, New York) – 29,885,000
4. Jeff Shulman (Las Vegas, Nevada) – 19,580,000
5. Joe Cada (Shelby Township, Michigan) – 13,215,000
6. Kevin Schaffel (Coral Springs, Florida) – 12,390,000
7. Phil Ivey (Las Vegas, Nevada) – 9,765,000
8. Antoine Saout (Paris, France) – 9,500,000
9. James Akenhead (London, England) – 6,800,000
Check out the WSOP on ESPN every Tuesday at 9:00pm ET.