The World Poker Tour is now into its 15th season of hosting, filming, and producing live poker tournaments for television broadcasts. While it all began on the Travel Channel in the early 2000s, the WPT has been airing on FOX Sports since 2009 and had some of its highest ratings there.
The latest news from the partnership revealed that the World Poker Tour and FOX Sports signed a new deal, this one a bit unprecedented. In fact, for a poker show, it’s very unprecedented. The contract is a five-year agreement to air the shows, which means the WPT is committed to its players, fans, and TV audience through Season XIX.
The historic deal is not only a five-year one between the WPT and FOX Sports, but it adds more hours of programming to the lineup as well.
There will be 13 additional hours of programming for each season, and there will be at least two WPT marathons aired each season on FOX Sports Regional Networks. The first will be the 2016 Labor Day marathon, set for the holiday weekend (in the United States) of September 3-5. Even more, the WPT broadcasts will all be available for livestreaming on FOX Sports GO.
WPT President and CEO Adam Pliska noted, “This unprecedented five-year deal with FOX Sports elevates WPT into an elite and exclusive group of shows that have aired on television for nineteen seasons.” He goes on to highlight that the list of mainstream sponsors for the show now include Hublot, Monster Headphones, Royal Caribbean International, and FIAT.
It was also revealed that the WPT broadcasts on FOX Sports have reached more than 215 million viewers in the US since premiering on FOX in 2009, and nearly half of that number is from the past two seasons alone. The WPT now averages more than 900,000 viewers per week.
Fans can count on seeing their WPT shows each Sunday during primetime television hours, as well as catching some older episodes during the aforementioned marathons. And the DVR can remain programmed for five years.
Already into Season XV
The longevity of the World Poker Tour itself is unique in poker, with the WSOP as the only live tournament series with a televised component that has been on TV for a longer period of time. The WPT was a groundbreaker when it launched in the early 2000s, and it has continued to make its mark through and after the poker boom.
Meanwhile, the live tournaments continue into Season XV. Only a few months ago, the Tournament of Champions played out at the Season XIV finale in Florida, and the new season kicked off soon after with the partypoker WPT Canadian Spring Championship in late April, then the WPT Amsterdam in May, and WPT Choctaw in Oklahoma, which just wrapped up this month. Currently, the crew is gearing up to head back to its home base of Los Angeles for the WPT Legends of Poker.
The WPT has made changes along the way to accommodate players, the fluctuating poker economy, and the reach of its audience. However, the basic premise of the show has remained the same. The hosts/commentators – Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten – have even remained with the show since its very first season, demonstrating the loyalty and dedication that they have to the WPT. It is this kind of steady and reliable offering that poker fans have come to know and expect.
Of course, there have been features that the WPT has adapted that have not worked (anyone remember the offshoot Professional Poker Tour?) and ones that the WPT stubbornly refuses to make (the Royal Flush Girls remain, leading this writer to sigh aloud that it is still a thing). But the overall concept of the World Poker Tour remains tight with a loyal following and steady formula that works season after season.
And no matter the new shiny poker tours that come along, the WPT continues to be respected as one of the first and most important pieces of poker history … as well as the game’s future.