The Epic Poker League (EPL) – which begins next month – will be given 20 hours of coverage on television in the USA, with television network CBS and Discovery Communications’ new HD cable network Velocity broadcasting the event.
The inaugural EPL kicks off in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino, running from August 9-12, and the Velocity Network – which is replacing the media and entertainment company’s HD Theater channel on October 4 and should launch in approximately 40 million US homes – will broadcast 13 hours of original programming from the tour.
CBS Sports, meanwhile, will follow this with seven hours of re-aired episodes, with broadcasting legend Pat O’Brien – an Emmy Award-winning host – being joined for the broadcasts by Iranian-American television poker commentator Ali Nejad, who is probably best known as the off-screen announcer on NBC’s Poker After Dark and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
No air dates or times have been announced yet for the EPL on ‘upscale male lifestyle network’ Velocity or CBS, but the tour’s parent company, Federated Sports & Gaming (FS+G), has decided to purchase ‘time buy’ slots so CBS can air the shows at weekends, while Velocity have agreed to broadcast the programme as a ‘promotional barter’ – meaning FS+G will not have to make any payments to the network.
The time-buy system has been commonly used for poker programming in recent years, with poker websites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker paying networks to broadcast shows. That is, until the US government’s recent crackdown on both sites on April 15.
But FS+G are hoping that – following the undoubted success of ESPN’s coverage of the recent World Series of Poker (WSOP) – there is an extra desire from viewers for additional poker on television following the US Department of Justice (DoJ) attack on online poker websites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker.
After what has become known as ‘Black Friday’, many television networks – including Fox and even ESPN – cancelled poker shows, but FS+G are banking on the public’s craving for “significant new exposure for poker’s most talented live tournament players”, according to EPL executive chairman Jeffrey Pollack.
Pollack continued by saying that “Epic Poker is proud to partner with CBS Television and Discovery Communications in our inaugural season”, before adding that “both companies share our commitment to providing a world-class stage” for the many high-quality pros lined up to take part in the tour.
Certainly, the coverage should be of a particularly high standard as executive producer David Neal and 441 Productions will produce the EPL for both networks.
Both 441 Productions and Neal have picked up many Emmy Awards, with the latter having produced numerous shows covering the Olympics and National basketball Association (NBA) Finals, while the former have become renowned for producing the WSOP between 2003 and 2010.
Neal believes that “Epic will provide a rich storytelling environment for our television production”, pointing out that his aim is to “capture the rivalries, the personalities, and the strategies brought to each event by an elite roster of player”.
There will be 218 big-name pros at the Epic Poker League – including Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan, Roland de Wolfe and Sam Trickett – invited to battle it out over the EPL season as they try to make next year’s 27-player freeroll final and lift a big chunk of the $1 million prize pool on offer.
Neal is without doubt excited by the prospect of seeing these famous names in action, adding that “it’s high stakes competition, with prestige and prize money on the line, and that makes an ideal setting for compelling entertainment”. Stay tuned at Poker News Report for more Epic Poker League news, air dates will follow as soon as they will be made public.