WSOP Says Goodbye ESPN, Hello CBS

  • The WSOP has agreed a multi-year deal with CBS Sports Network, announced Monday
  • It will include 15 hours of WSOP Main Event coverage, 36 hours on other bracelet events
  • Executives in both companies are very happy with the new partnership
  • The WSOP started out on TV on the show CBS Sports Spectacular in the seventies
  • The CBS deal brings the WSOP’s 34-year relationship with ESPN to an end
  • Details on how the broadcasts will look and who will be hosting are yet to follow
Facade of Rio Hotel in Las Vegas
The WSOP has moved from ESPN to CBS Sports Network for coverage of its upcoming series at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino (pictured above), following a multi-year rights deal. [Image:]

CBS promises over 50 hours of WSOP coverage in 2021

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) has announced a new multi-year rights agreement with CBS Sports, the sports division of American television network CBS, whose parent company is the diversified multinational mass media conglomerate ViacomCBS Inc.

The news was shared on the official WSOP Twitter page on Monday:

“Following our past success with PokerGO, we are excited to expand our relationship with the highest-profile and richest event in competitive tournament poker featuring the best players in the world”, said Dan Weinberg, executive vice president of programming for CBS Sports. Two years ago, CBS and PokerGO collaborated on live-stream coverage of bracelet events with commentators Lon McEachern, Ali Nejad, and David Tuchman.

WSOP executive director Ty Stewart described CBS Sports as “a pioneer in covering a broad range of championship sports.” He added: “We couldn’t be more excited to see increased television coverage of the WSOP in the coming years and benefit from their growing media platforms.”

15 hours of WSOP Main Event coverage plus 36 further hours of content on other bracelet events

Beginning in 2021, CBS Sports Network will produce 15 hours of WSOP Main Event coverage plus 36 further hours of content on other bracelet events. This year’s live WSOP is scheduled to take place at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino between September 30 and November 23. 

CBS was the WSOP’s first home

“We have a history with this competition and with this tournament, and we’re excited to rekindle it,” said Weinberg. Indeed they do. Throughout the mid-1970s, the WSOP Main Event was broadcast on the show CBS Sports Spectacular hosted by Jack Whitaker. 

WSOP a “best-in-class brand”

Weinberg called the WSOP a “best-in-class brand”. He emphasized its long history and how it has “a lot of prestige and recognition across the country, both for hardcore poker players and just casual sports fans.”

The CBS Sports executive was clear, however, about the extent of CBS’s embrace of poker. He explained that there is currently no plan to air future events on the CBS Television Network, and to instead push it on other ViacomCBS platforms including Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access).

The WSOP bids farewell to ESPN

In 1987, ESPN covered Johnny Chan’s victory in the Main Event. In 2020, it broadcast Damian Salas win in the hybrid online/live Main Event. With this new deal, the WSOP brings to an end a 34-year relationship with ESPN, another (20%) ViacomCBS-owned entity.

WSOP brings to an end a 34-year relationship with ESPN

In total, ESPN has broadcast the World Series of Poker Main Event for 19 consecutive years, their mainstream coverage the highest-rated poker content each and every year. For CBS, there will be a lot of details to iron out in the coming weeks and months, including the potential return of longtime WSOP broadcast duo Lon McEachern and Norman Chad. There may be a desire to shake things up, but it must be said that it would be difficult, nay ‘inconceivable’, to imagine the Main Event coverage without them. 

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