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Poker World Series Plans Global Expansion

Aug 19, 2007  •  Post A Comment

World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack is ahead of schedule on his five-year plan to modernize the long-running poker tournament. The strategy is unfolding with the main event set to air in HD on ESPN this week, a new event in Europe and additional sponsors and partners throughout the digital stratosphere.
“This plan is designed to set the course for the World Series of Poker for the next 40 years by expanding our global footprint with additional events, but also innovating our digital and broadband content, and continuing to add to our sponsorship roster,” Mr. Pollack said.
“When I got here two years ago from NASCAR, there was no business behind the World Series of Poker. It was a well-established tournament, but there was no strategy to support the growth of the tournament as an intellectual property rights venture,” he added.
World Series of Poker, owned by Harrah’s, has grown from bouncing on and off the airwaves to having a long-term home on ESPN. The annual event spans 50 days from preliminaries to final.
Televised poker has grown in popularity in recent years. Among shows cashing in are World Poker Tour, which moves from Travel Channel to GSN in 2008, and GSN’s “High Stakes Poker.”
Poker’s popularity is exploding, as reflected in the genre’s growth both domestically and overseas.
Just last week, World Poker Tour owner WPT Enterprises announced a five-year pact in China.
One part of Mr. Pollack’s plan will fall into place next month in London with the launch of “World Series of Poker Europe,” which sources said will air on News Corp.’s Sky TV.
Mr. Pollack declined to comment on any deal with Sky or on the league’s revenue projections, though he did note “World Series of Poker” is looking toward Asia and South America as future stops for the tournament. An announcement on that may come in as few as 12 months.
“We are taking the U.S. business model overseas and have global television distribution for the event as we build a new tradition in Europe,” Mr. Pollack said.
Back in the U.S., World Series of Poker’s “Main Event” averaged a 1.2 rating on ESPN last year.
Exploring new media, World Series of Poker has digital deals on multiple outlets, including Bluff Media for online components, console games with Activision, mobile with Glu Mobile and an Internet partnership with America Online.
Mr. Pollack is no stranger to the sports business world. Before joining World Series of Poker, he was managing director of broadcasting and new media for NASCAR, as well as head of marketing for the NBA.
Upon Mr. Pollack’s arrival at World Series of Poker, he immediately implemented the strategy designed to mirror the business plans of the bigger sports leagues such as the National Football League. The first step was to negotiate partnerships with ESPN and Sirius, as well as to set sponsorships with companies such as Miller Brewing Co.
“From my experience at the NBA and NASCAR, I took the playbook traditional leagues use to grow their brand and applied it to our property, although on a different scale,” he said.

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