GSN is placing a big bet on Las Vegas.
The network formerly known as Game Show Network plans to dub Monday nights “Vegas Night”; add original, live interstitial programming from Sin City around its casino-oriented shows and has signed a sponsor for the night.
The wraparounds on Monday nights begin Jan. 15, when a new season of “High Stakes Poker” premieres.
Gambling Web site Pokerstars.net is the marketer that anted up for an integrated sponsorship of “Vegas Night.”
“We’ve had our eye on Vegas for quite some time and now we really are committed to casino-related programming,” said Dena Kaplan, GSN senior VP of marketing. Last year, the network called Monday nights “Casino Night,” but now it is refining that strategy.
“With the success of `High Stakes Poker’ and `World Series of Blackjack’ we just feel at this point that it’s very fitting and definitely on-brand to bring more Vegas-related entertainment home to our viewers,” she said.
In other support of GSN’s Vegas-related programming, the network is erecting its first billboard in Las Vegas, on the road from the airport to the downtown casinos, to remind viewers that they can see poker on the network.
Three years ago, the network rebranded itself as GSN and planned to expand its programming beyond traditional game shows. It moved into casino games with “The World Series of Blackjack,” and now “High Stakes Poker” is one of its highest-rated original shows.
“We really brought in a new audience. It’s a male-skewing show and we’ve been able to bring those poker fans to GSN,” Ms. Kaplan said.
In 2006, the network actually lost viewers in prime time among the 18 to 49 demographic. The network was the No. 41-ranked cable network for the year in terms of total viewers in prime time. Over the course of the year, its 18 to 49 viewers in prime time dropped 20 percent.
Ms. Kaplan said the decline stemmed from the surge in game shows airing on the broadcast networks.
She added, however, that the increased interest in game shows was helping GSN in daytime, and the network was up 8 percent in the demo over the full programming day.
The live interstitials will be hosted by comedian Ben Begley and former “American Idol” contestant Kristin Holt. (Some weeks the material will be shot live to tape.)
They’ll run for 90 seconds per hour and feature eccentric people and interesting places in Vegas, Ms. Kaplan said. One regular segment in the live material will be poker tips from Pokerstars.net players.
The first week will feature Blue Man Group from the Venetian Hotel.
“It’s really important that we entertain our viewers as well as lead them through the various shows in the block,” she said.