TelevisionWeek's new blog by World Poker Tour boss Steven Lipscomb marks this publication's second blog by a member of the television industry. As the founder of WPT, Steve often is credited with starting the televised poker boom. He's also known to say a controversial thing or two.

Just as Rich Goldfarb, senior VP of sales for National Geographic Channel, offered candid insight into the upfront advertising selling period, Steve plans to pull no punches in discussing the people, practices and pitfalls of the television business.

And remember: TVWeek.com encourages you to respond to what you read here. So feel free to post comments on Steve's blog.


World Poker Tour

From the Inside Looking In

July 19, 2006 4:54 PM

What a remarkable time to join the ever-expanding blog phenomenon. Thomas Friedman has declared Columbus a fraud - and the world officially flat. The notion of a woman being president was so unappealing to an American audience that not even Geena Davis could suspend disbelief beyond two seasons. And, Poker has become a global sports phenomenon — almost in spite of the laughs and jeers we heard when I first pitched it that way . . .

So . . . let’s blog, shall we.

First, a confession. Underlying most of my thoughts will be one very simple proposition: I truly and passionately believe that we live in the most exciting time in the history of civilization. Absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. Witness the image of Warren Buffet standing beside Bill and Melinda Gates. Or, the image of concrete liquefying as two pillars of western financial power fall in New York.

All of it. Completely off the charts . . .

You likely know that the Chinese character for “crisis” also means “opportunity”. I believe we live in a time that is defined by that ancient double entendre. And, two basic themes that I see verified time and time again by the creative geniuses of our time, keep me on the “opportunity” not the “crisis” side of the ledger. The first one is the indefatigable ability of the innovator to do the impossible - or at least what seemed impossible before they did it. And, the second recurring theme is the reality that innovation almost always comes from the most unlikely of sources.

That, my friends must make this the era of the individual. And, as we are all individuals, I think this should be a pretty exciting era for all of us.

I recently heard Former President Bill Clinton speak at the Inc. 500 Conference sponsored by INC. Magazine. Gathered were the entrepreneurs and visionaries behind the fastest growing companies in the country. His message was simple and profound. He challenged his esteemed audience to pause for a moment and take a good look around. The pace of technology has accelerated at such a rate that governments simply can not and will not be able to keep up. Most things that are actually working to solve issues, problems and needs are being initiated and operated by what he called “social entrepreneurs” - individuals on their own or through non-government organization (NGOs).

Clinton’s call to action was to go beyond the selfish incentives inherent in capitalist entrepreneurship (not that there is anything wrong with those incentives) and to find a way to use your creative energy to make the world a decent place for our kids - and their kids. Why? Because you are quite simply the best shot we’ve got to make sense out of the madness and to build a bridge to hope (he didn’t actually say that, but I couldn’t resist).

Now what does all this have to do with television? Well, when TV Week approached me to join their blogger community, I asked for some time to think about it. Primarily because I wondered what perspective I might have to offer. And, I suppose this is it. We are actively engaged in creating the stuff that fuels the most powerful medium on the planet. Some pretty deep responsibility - or better put: one hell of an “opportunity”.

How do we do that?

I suppose we can start by asking when the last time was that we asked why we were creating that next television show? Or, to ask what show we might be able to make that could help change the world?

I have been fortunate to work with the ever iconic Sir, Mr. Norman Lear. Somehow Norman always seemed to be able to create great entertainment that challenged us and made the world a better place at the same time. Who fills those shoes today? Certainly lots of producers. But, personally, I think it can be harder, not easier, when you are successful.

When you are the aspiring producer, dreaming of your name on the cover of TV Week, the Hollywood Reporter or Daily Variety, there is something wonderfully pure about your intent and your creative process. When you’ve been there, something weird seems to happen. There is this vortex that pulls at you. Your life can so easily become about trying to stay there - as opposed to that pure zest to create - and make a difference.

So, I suppose that is my blogger’s quest (if you can have such a thing). To look from the inside looking in. And, ask some simple questions: Why do we do what we do? And, how can we do more?

You are invited to go for the ride . . .

INPUT: I’d love to hear examples of people in the industry that you believe are people who are making a difference.


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Comments (6)


A poker player at heart, Steven Lipscomb knows when to sit down at the table.

He was first in the TV poker biz, but he's far from the first mover in the blogging game. By getting involved now, he finds himself sitting in relatively late position, which any card player knows is to his advantage.

And Lipscomb is already bluffing. He knows, but doesn't let on in his first post, that a lot more will happen after today than before. As "remarkable and exciting" as today is, I have a feeling that "tomorrow" will see Steve's "remarkable and exciting," and raise him "unknown."

But, Steve is in late position in this game, and he's the chip leader. He is expecting "tomorrow" to raise, and if we're lucky, Steve is about to come over the top and put "tomorrow" all-in with his next post where he'll write further about the responsibility of wielding the power of TV's influence on public opinion.

I'lll tune in to see that showdown. Good luck with the blog.

Steve Lipscomb:

That was just a fantastic response.

They say you always remember your first . . .

And as my first blog comment thing, I think that means we're bonded.

Thanks for being gentle . . .


p.s. Who are your current heros. What do you think about Michal Moore?

steve cheskin:

Hey Steve-

You are a big shot now with your own blog on TVWeek.com! I remember you when! I had dinner last night in NY with Doug. Can't talk about the good old days without discussing the WPT!



Dear God,

Steve Cheskin. This man (along with his then Travel Channel cohort Doug Depriest) are the reason poker jumped onto prime-time television. Don't want to out you, but have heard you are at a new network. Would love to catch up sometime.

Owe you an eternal debt of gratitude . . .




Love the question, who is making a differnce. Two people quickly come to mind. Colin Callender, Pres. of HBO Films and Richard Curtis(Four Weddings & a Funeral, Love Actually) writer & director of The Girl in a Cafe. Colin had enough guts & fortitude to greenlight a love story set at a G-8 Summit and Richard Curtis delivered a smart movie that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of world debt and the inability and unwillingness of goverments to do anything about it. Curtis won the HUMANITAS prize for his script and immediately declared I'm giving the $25,000 to charity. Generosity begets more generosity. Since you worked with a very generous and creative philanthropist, Norman Lear, and you have made important & smart docs, I look forward to hearing about the creative ways you will continue to give back.
Chris Donahue

Steve Lipscomb:

Humanitas is one of those organizations that fit the bill as well. What you guys do is recognize people for the craft behind the craft -- the craft that makes a difference.

Colin and Richard are great examples. I'm a big Michale Moore fan as well -- though he tends to divide the cocktail party audience pretty much right down the middle. I guess that means he's doing something . . .


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