Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuning In: The 2015 WSOP Main Event Begins on ESPN

Saw our friend Kevmath tweeting a little earlier about viewers for last night’s initial two episodes from ESPN of their 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event coverage.

I was watching ESPN last night, although not the WSOP. Looking over at Sports TV Ratings’ numbers from Monday night, I was part of the group of 13.56 million watching the night’s first NFL game (Philadelphia at Atlanta) as well as part of the 14.33 million looking in on the second one (Minnesota at San Francisco).

I was also enduring some of that agony I was talking about yesterday after having picked both games incorrectly (in both cases going with “consensus” picks). (Argh!)

The episodes of the WSOP aired over on ESPN2 at 8 and 9 p.m. Looks like 245,000 were watching that first hour, then 414,000 tuned in for the second hour.

Instead of watching live, I DVR’d the poker and watched this afternoon. Was entertaining, I thought, in large part because of Phil Hellmuth being on the feature table for the entire two hours, then Daniel Negreanu getting seated there for the last 45 minutes or so of hour no. 2.

I also liked the snippets of talk from various players talking about what it meant to play the Main. That helped broaden things in such a way that it was possible to think of the larger context for the various hands that were shown. (Otherwise, it was hard -- as usual -- to think about how the tournament as a whole was going.)

Speaking of the number of people watching, at the end of one hand during the first part of the first hour, Hellmuth made a reference to his hand after being folded to, and when asked if he was telling the truth he said if he weren’t he’d “just lied in front a million people.”

Then he recalculated.

“Gonna be five million people watching this, at least.”

I believe last year’s Main Event final table -- the “almost live” November Nine, that is -- drew something like 1.15 million viewers, with the episodes leading up to it drawing considerably fewer. About a month ago I looked up some of these stats, finding that the 2008 WSOP ME final table had 2.364 million watching (the most of the Nov. 9 era).

This old PokerNews article from a decade ago lists some stats for ESPN’s WSOP episodes from back in the glory days. The article says in 2003 the average was 1 million viewers (for those seven Main Event episodes), in 2004 it was 1.5 million (for 22 hrs. of coverage, including non-ME shows), and in 2005 it was 1.1 million (for 32 hrs. of coverage).

No surprise to find that five million people watching a poker show didn’t happen even at the height of the poker boom. Nor is it to hear Hellmuth imagining five million are watching him.

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