View Full Version : ESPN hits jackpot with 'plausibly live' poker finale

11-14-2005, 08:27 AM
AS originally posted here. (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/hiestand-tv/2005-11-13-hiestand-poker_x.htm)

Tuesday night, ESPN will grab some pretty good ratings for an event that ended July 16.
But producer Bob Chesterman, overseeing ESPN's 32-episode World Series of Poker coverage, including the winner getting $7.5 million in Tuesday's finale, sees parallels between TV poker and Olympic TV to explain why viewers will tune in for taped card games.

Chesterman says the idea is to cover the shuffling as if it's "plausibly live" a term that's been applied to taped Olympic coverage as 2,500 hours of footage of 5,175 hands are pared down. But unlike taped Olympic coverage that uses announcers' live calls, ESPN's poker announcers watch edited footage and call it as if it were live. Says Chesterman, "At the events, people always ask where the announcers are."

His tack echoes the game plan of Olympic broadcasting, which needs to compel Americans to watch taped action of sports they normally don't watch: "While people might already know who won, you still want to cover the journey, the stories. You're always looking for great storytelling."

Chesterman, who worked on NBC's coverage of four Olympics, including the 2000 Sydney Games, had a personal Olympic flashback as Australian Joseph Hachem's hometown buddies cheered him on in the poker finals: "They were chanting, 'Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie! Oy! Oy! Oy!' I never thought I'd hear that again."

But the parallels with the Olympics have their limits. This World Series is held in a Las Vegas casino. And when just three players are left out of the original 5,618 entrants, Chesterman says, "an endless sea of guards bring out $7.5 million in cash and dump it on a huge table it really is a great moment."

Last year's poker finale drew 2.8% of cable TV households, making it a bigger draw than nearly everything else on ESPN except NFL games, postseason baseball and marquee college football and basketball.

Next year, Chesterman will add a Skycam to hover above the poker action, and he expects the winner's prize money will be $10 million. Also next year, he'll help launch ESPN coverage of another Everyman sport being readied for TV the World Series of Darts.

Off-beat: Kenny Mayne, on ESPN's NFL pregame show Sunday, looked at New York Jets lineman Michael King, who appeared in usually realistic Madden NFL 2006 video game as being 7 inches tall. (The glitch was quickly discovered and corrected in the game's downloadable updates.) Mayne did a deadpan interview with King, who was made to look tiny on TV. The feature was funny but would have been in poor taste if the lineman really was the size of a hot dog. ... Pat Haden, NBC's Notre Dame analyst, sometimes sees things that don't show up on replays. Such as noting Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, vs. Navy on Saturday, getting so much time to set up throws that "he could look at the full wine list." ... While on-field pregame interviews with college football coaches are commonplace if rarely enlightening, ABC's Jack Arute got a rare pregame chat with a player A.J. Hawk just before the Ohio State linebacker ran on-field for the Buckeyes' win Saturday against Northwestern. Better make sure those players learn coach speak.

Meeting a need: Because it's hard for viewers to know much about Super Bowls before the kickoffs, the NFL Network will carry 60 hours of live pregame coverage when the next Woodstock of Corporate America is held in Detroit in February up from a meager 29 hours last year. On game day, there will be lengthy pregame shows on the NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, which carries the game. But we still need more.

NFL spice rack: In a Sunday CBS skit meant to satirize the Philadelphia Eagles suspending Terrell Owens, CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe apologized for his (make-believe) suspension at CBS "I'd like to apologize to my producer for having instructed him not to speak to me unless I spoke to him first." That could never happen in TV. ... Fox's Jimmy Johnson, noting the Eagles got to the Super Bowl with Owens and predicting the team won't make playoffs without him, said Owens "was a positive experience for the Eagles." ... CBS, on Denver-Oakland on Sunday, let viewers listen briefly on the Raiders first game radio broadcast in Navajo. CBS' Dick Enberg anticipated what viewers would be wondering by saying "oh, my" is "ehh yey'd" in Navajo, which Enberg pronounced as "aye-aye."

11-30-2005, 04:44 PM
I think despite poker's rise in popularity, the typical veiwer probably though he was watching live coverage. When I was watching in 2003, I thought it was live for almost the first hour I watched. After the WSOP ended, it only recieved a small paragraph in the back of the sports page in the main paper and nothing in any of the small local papers.

One day we may see poker make front page headlines but that time is still a ways off. I think the way ESPN handles coverage and the announcing is excellent.

03-11-2006, 12:10 AM
I think it would be hard to have a Tourney on TV live -

Sometimes people take 10 minutes to decide on a hand - that would make for very BORING Television.

It took ESPN over 180 man hours to edited the episodes they aired on TV for the 2005 WSOP -

And in 2006 the WSOP has added 12 MORE EVENTS !!! - So if they want to air even more evens - it will take them weeks to edit all those episodes !!

I enjoy watching poker on TV - I wish they would show more tourneys !!!

04-17-2006, 01:46 PM
I think if poker keeps gaining in popularity and making money that ESPN will devot more hours to the WSOP and show more tournaments.

04-20-2006, 12:51 PM
ESPN Classic shows a lot of the older events like the 1995 WSOP final table, etc. Its real interesting hearing the announcing back then compared to now. Almost seems... cheesy... listening to the guys announcing it back in that year compared to now. I still enjoy the WPT coverage most because they seem to show a more variety of hands, where as ESPN coverage shows a lot of races 55/45 all-ins, etc. But I do like how ESPN is covering a lot of events now... more poker TV to choose from. Even if the paticular event isn't that enjoyable for me to watch, I do like more selection :)