For the first time in two decades, a network other than ESPN will be the home of the World Series of Poker.
On Monday CBS announced that they had reached a multi-year deal with PokerGO for the exclusive WSOP TV rights.
CBS Sports today announced a new multi-year rights agreement with PokerGO as its new television partner for the World Series of Poker Main Event and select WSOP Bracelet Events.
Beginning in 2021, CBS Sports Network will be the exclusive domestic television home of the WSOP, featuring 15 hours of Main Event coverage and 36 hours of 18 additional Gold Bracelet events, easily marking a new high for the historic poker festival.
Future details, which will include a Paramount+ component (along with other ViacomCBS platforms), are still to be announced.
ESPN began airing the WSOP way back in 1988, though that early coverage paled in comparison to what we’d see later down the line. After a brief three-year stint on Discovery, ESPN took the rights back over in 2002 and expanded their coverage into something more comprehensive.
It’s worth noting that CBS does have a history with poker. In the late ’70s, CBS aired coverage of the WSOP, narrated by (who else?) Jimmy The Greek. Additionally, prior to its rebrand as Paramount+ earlier this year, CBS All-Access streamed WSOP events through its partnership with PokerGO (notably in 2019), though ESPN remained the exclusive TV home for the series.
Now, that’s changing, and it really is the end of an era. It remains to be seen if the switch will be beneficial in the long run for the WSOP, because there are risks that come with trading the massive reach of ESPN for what would seemingly be a more featured role on a less distributed network like CBS Sports Network. And while much of our talk in this article has been about the TV rights, the still unknown streaming component may be a more important part of the deal.