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

Small Minds, Big Chairs

July 26, 2006 7:05 PM

Dear God, man. Whatever happened to the cable channel programmer?!

No question about it, our industry is changing.

The convergence is very different than the industry prognosticators (or doomsayers) warned fifteen years ago, but it has happened.

You may not be watching every show on your computer (which is your television … which is your movie screen), but you can’t really sell TV ads any more without an Internet and podcast component - and who knows what is next.

So, it has changed …

But, still, I marvel at the small minds that can occupy big chairs in executive offices. If you truly are a programmer-and some people get the title without the nature-you have to know that it is great programming that drives the train.

But, like everything, when you organize it, you kill it. When the money makes the decision, you make less money.

If American Idol had been conceived by a record company to hock its wares, it would have sucked. Remember Pepsi’s Billion Dollar whatever challenge …?

It’s nothing new, right? The television business was built selling soap. But, you always sell more soap if you’ve got something great to watch. And, that never comes to you by figuring out how to sell more soap.

But, you’ve got to make money at that there cable network …

So, when someone offers you money to program the twelfth knock-off show that will promote an online gaming site, you take it. But, you contribute to the growing malcontent surrounding television. You create another reason for someone to spend time on YouTube instead of with you.

And that may be a good thing. But, I have to believe that it is the forward-looking programmers (that actually fill most of those chairs out there) that will figure out how the seismic shifts save rather than destroy the industry.

And, the small minds? They will go away.

They always do …


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Comments (7)

Marianne Paskowski:

I know you are the poker guy, but are you aware of anyone doing a show about Blackjack? To me it's the only game in a casino that you can beat the house, although it does help if your good at counting cards.

Steve Lipscomb:

Oh yes, Marianne. They are all trying to find the next poker.

GSN has done a blackjack show -- adapting many of the WPT format elements to try to make it interesting. And, now a group is buying time on CBS to attempt to make a go of it as well (and now the two of them are suing each other over the blackjack TV market).

For whatever it's worth, I just don't think it is a very interesting game to watch -- particularly when you are playing against the house. What makes poker so much fun to watch is the fact that real people are playing against other real people -- some of the best reality television out there.


Marianne Paskowski:

I guess you're right about blackjack, if you're thinking reality television, only. But the Rain Maker, starring Dustin Hoffman as the idiot savant card counter got me intrigued with blackjack. And then there was that book, I think it's "Bringing Down the House," where a bunch of MIT grad students beat the house big time.

Anyhow thanks for the update on blackjack's prospects on TV.



Keep up the great work on your blog. Best wishes WaltDe


Steve and Marianne,

I haven't seen the GSN blackjack show, but I did see the CBS one. I agree, that playing math against the House is only mildly entertaining. But I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this new form of blackjack on CBS. Elimination Tournament Blackjack. Throughout the course of the broadcast, I learned the strategy. It was less about betting to beat the House, and more about surviving your opponents, not being the one eliminated (having the least chip count) during the frequen elimination rounds. It put a new spin on the game than I had seen before, on tv or elsewhere. Bluffing elements were implemented with the help of 1 secret bet for each player used at any time. It really caught my eye. I never knew blackjack could get me that wound up. At any rate, I'm not that stellar of a poker player - but if this elimination blackjack ever hit the casino's, I think it could be right up my alley. Let me know what you think.

Steve Lipscomb:

Thanks so much WaltDe. Sometimes wonder who is watching . . .


I've seen both shows. Steve's right about GSN, it's pretty boring. But the Ultimate Blackjack Tour is very cool. It's a new kind of blackjack that combines blackjack with the betting strategies of poker. As a poker player, I like it, and think the show kicks. I don't think Elimination Blackjack will surpass poker, but it will bring blackjack into our world in a pretty brainy way.

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