Poker Central Pulls Plug On Cable, Shifts Focus To Digital Programming

Steve Ruddock December 28, 2016 1728 Reads
Poker Central unplug cable

It would appear the broadcast world isn’t quite ready for round-the-clock poker programming.

Poker Central, a network dedicated exclusively to poker-themed programming that launched in October 2015, announced it will pivot from linear programming (streaming and broadcast) to digital content at the start of 2017.

Poker Central’s pivot

The broadcast television side of the network lasted just a year. Despite having some agreements with cable television distributors in place, the company has decided to pull the plug and shift its focus to digital programming.

“Poker Central is wildly popular with poker fans who want the freedom to enjoy our content when, where and how they want,” Poker Central President Joe Kakaty said in a press release. “We found an almost insatiable appetite for live poker and are investing in new studios in both New York and Las Vegas to feed it. Poker fans will love our full slate of live fast-action poker and our fantastic daily content offerings.”

In an interview with MultiChannel.com, Kakaty called the move a “pivot.”

“It’s a digital pivot because we saw our millennial audience wanted more content,” he said. “But they wanted new, original content.”

TV programming

Even though the company is shifting to digital content, Poker Central is not completely turning its back on traditional media channels, including TV.

“TV is not going away — it’s just how we’ll work with TV that is going to change,” Kakaty said. “Programming, including new, original programming will continue, and Poker Central still has plans to bring its programming to traditional TV network.”

The press release went on to say: “Poker Central will continue to produce original programming like Pokerography and the Super High Roller Bowl.”

Despite numerous original programs, like Pokerography, it was the poker people tuning in to watch, most notably, streams of the Super High Roller Bowl (Poker Central’s most watched programming).

“When our early access to the initial hours of the Super High Roller Bowl shattered Twitch records, we decided to embrace our audience’s preferred viewing habits,” said Poker Central Vice President of Content Sam Simmons in the company’s press release.

How will Poker Central still be on cable?

Here’s how Poker Central plans to keep a foot in the door of TV for US poker and beyond.

Instead of producing content for TV, Poker Central will now produce content for its digital outlets (PokerCentral.com, Twitch, and others), which it can then package and sell to a network.

“This means access to poker programming on the platforms of their choice, while expanding our live TV broadcasts by partnering with several fully distributed networks,” Simmons said.

And as Kakaty noted in his MultiChannel.com interview, the recent Poker Central Charity Shootout event was broadcast live on Dec. 3 across digital platforms, and was later shown on CBS Sports Network on Dec. 12 and 13.

Still, the “legacy part of our business is not a place where we wanted to put our resources,” Kakaty said.

Team expansion

As part of the pivot, Poker Central has made two recent hires to shore up its digital programming:

  • Justin Lundstrom is Poker Central’s new Head of Production and Programming. Formerly Director of Video Production and Operations at Complex Media, Lundstrom increased Complex Media’s video production to 20 times its former output. Lundstrom produced a film featured at the Sundance Film Festival and has years of production expertise with documentary, music video and feature film work.
  • Carl Marxer is Poker Central’s new Director of Creative Services, in charge of animation and brand graphics. Marxer is an award-winning designer, a NATAS member, Emmy Awards judge, and a member of the Television Academy. Marxer’s prior experience includes VICE, Viceland TV, the MLB Network, CNN and the Back9 golf network start-up.

In a somewhat related move, Poker Central recently hired a team of poker reporters/writers/podcasters who will likely round out the company’s digital content with written, audio and video content.

Poker Central added former PokerNews.com reporter and podcaster Remko Rinkema, tournament reporter Will O’Connor and longtime poker journalist Paul Oresteen.

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