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WSOP and ESPN signed new 7-Year Deal

This article was written by: Jannah Strat for Celebrity Poker Players

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The WSOP (World Series Of Poker) and ESPN the television broadcaster have agreed a new 7 year deal in an extension to their current agreement.

WSOP and ESPN owner Harrah's Entertainment announced Tuesday a new seven year deal worth an undisclosed amount.

The news comes on the same day as the first two of 24 episodes covering the 2009 Main Event are set to debut. Ratings for the initial 2009 episodes - those covering the $40,000 No Limit Hold’em event, the Champions Invitational, and the Ante Up For Africa charity event - are down 8% from the previous year.

The cable sports giant has long been associated with the WSOP. For ten years from the late 1980s to the late 1990s the network aired one-hour episodes covering the main event final table. More modern coverage, complete with hole cards, began in 2002. The next year, ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP Main Event became a mainstay when Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker became the improbable champion.

The apparent new TV deal comes as ESPN’s coverage of the 2009 WSOP Main Event ramps up. Last month the network began airing coverage of the event, which culminates with the final table in November.

ESPN said its 2008 coverage of the WSOP drew a 0.9 rating. The network said last year's WSOP reached 919,000 homes and 1.13 million viewers, up 13% and 15% from 2007 respectively.

Surprisingly, ESPN's extensive commitment to televised poker comes amidst stagnant ratings. Though the 2008 WSOP drew an average of 1.13 million viewers, up 15% from 2007, ratings for the 2009 WSOP have fallen 8% thus far from their 2008 levels. However, the addition of the "November Nine" concept -- a delayed, semi-live Final Table broadcast -- boosted ratings for the 2008 Final Table by 46% over the 2007 Final Table.

A network executive who was not authorized to speak about the deal put it this way -- "ESPN is bullish on poker for a long time to come."

ESPN began airing new episodes of the 2009 World Series of Poker on July 28th. Thus far, three two-hour blocks of coverage have aired featuring the $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, the Champions Invitational, and the Ante Up for Africa Celebrity/Charity event. The first two of the 24 episodes chronicling the 2009 Main Event will premiere tomorrow, Tuesday August 18, at 8pm EST.


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