Travel Channel has a Winning poker Hand

Apr 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

At least 100 players are expected to flock to Las Vegas this week to play Texas Hold Em in the finale of the estimated $4 million World Poker Tour at the Bellagio Hotel. But the biggest winner appears to be The Travel Channel, which took a gamble and came up with an unbeatable hand. Ratings for the first three prime-time episodes about doubled Travel Channel’s average in households and key demos, according to Nielsen. Even more startling, ratings for the last quarter-hour of each episode were nearly twice those at the start. The show features a dramatic set, chyrons of players’ hands and play-by-play from professional poker player Mike Sexton and actor Vincent Van Patten. Shana Hiatt (E!’s Wild On) hosts.
“We opened above our prime-time average and ended way above,” Travel Channel GM Steve Cheskin said. “That’s what you want, people who tune in because of promotion, interest, and then they stay. When you see it build like that you know you’ve got something good going on.”
Mr. Cheskin hopes WPT could do for his network what ratings phenom Trading Spaces did for fellow Discovery net TLC. “Right off the bat to have ratings like that and the fact that people are really talking about it, it’s got a real shot to be a megahit. It will be our No. 1 show week in and week out.”
Exec producer Steve Lipscomb said the show “plays exactly like we hoped it would, like a live event.” WPT and Travel have started discussing a second season, but no deal yet. “The Travel Channel committed to putting the show in prime time as a two-hour event and promoting it, and we hope to have a longstanding relationship with them because of that,” Mr. Lipscomb said. “But we are free agents.” A celebrity invitational, set to air June 4, drew such players as Don Cheadle, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mickey Rooney and Norm MacDonald. The finale airs June 25.