GSN Raises Its Gaming Series Ante

Nov 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Continuing its gaming-related programming efforts, GSN has greenlighted a new poker series, picked up a pilot for a competitive pool series and given a 13-episode renewal to “World Series of Blackjack.”

Starting in January, the blackjack and poker shows will be combined for a casino-themed night on Tuesdays.

“Poker Royale: The WPPA Championship” is a six-episode, one-hour series tracking a no-limit Hold ‘Em tournament at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. GSN has lined up a sponsor in Pizza Hut, which will introduce a new product called the “Full House Pizza.” The series will culminate with an opportunity for a home viewer to win $10 million on one hand of poker during the season finale.

The greenlight for “Poker Royale,” combined with CMT’s order of the poker show “Dead Man’s Hand” (TelevisionWeek, Oct. 25), proves the genre is still attracting network interest despite the bevy of poker shows on the air, including ESPN’s “World Series of Poker,” Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown” and the Travel Channel’s “World Poker Tour.”

Ian Valentine, GSN’s senior VP of programming, said “Poker Royale” will differ from the competition in a few key aspects. “The series will have a very different look from other poker shows,” Mr. Valentine said. “It’s much more noir-poker, more stylized.”

Also, the tournament will raise the “blinds” (forced bets) more slowly than in other shows. “It’s a more skill-based game. It allows more poker skills to emerge rather than luck,” he said.

Mr. Valentine also ordered a pilot for a competitive pool series called “No Limit 9 Ball.” “We hope GSN will do to pool what `WPT’ did to poker,” he said.

Though the network is embracing gaming and casino concepts, Mr. Valentine said GSN is backing away from an earlier plan to develop video game-related programming. Despite the appeal to young demographics, networks have frequently struggled to find video game-themed programming that connects with viewers.

“Coming up with innovative and compelling video game-related programming has proved elusive,” Mr. Valentine said.