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There will be a noticeable change in the coverage at the 2015 World Series of Poker and where on the Internet the poker community finds that coverage, as the tournament series and PokerNews were unable to come to terms on a new contract to cover the 2015 WSOP, which means for the first time since 2007, PokerNews will not be the exclusive live reporting team at the WSOP.

PokerNews and the WSOP parting ways was a surprising development, as PokerNews has done a tremendous job covering the tournament over the years; a task that has more logistical problems than 1,000 unmarked boxes in a UPS warehouse.

Just as surprising was how it was announced, as PokerNews’s Matthew Parvis took to Twitter to inform the poker world.

That being said, maybe it’s not as surprising as it first appeared. Since the announcement that PokerNews was out as the exclusive live reporting team, several details of the deal between the WSOP and PokerNews have come to light, and it’s a far cry from how most people assumed the deal was structured.

The WSOP was paying PokerNews

The general feeling in the poker world was that the outlet paid for exclusive rights to cover the World Series of Poker, and this seems to have been the case during the Poker Boom. But at some point in time this changed, and it was the World Series of Poker that started paying PokerNews to cover their event – albeit with a revenue sharing deal in place.

According to Caesars Entertainment’s Seth Palansky, the issue that led to the two entities parting ways was money, as he told F5 Poker the following:

There was once a day we got paid a significant amount by a third party to provide live reporting and split the traffic. Those days are gone. PokerNews asked for a nearly 200% increase this year to do the job and we simply can’t justify that expense in a traffic-sharing arrangement. We were pleased with PokerNews’ work and are sad that we won’t have them live reporting the 2015 WSOP.”

Parvis shed even more light on the situation in a candid interview with PocketFives.com on Friday. According to Parvis:

“For each event, we put together a proposal saying how much the event will cost to produce […] As the industry started contracting and budgets got smaller, WSOP started chipping in to help subsidize the coverage… We had to make up the difference between what WSOP paid us to cover expenses and what our expenses actually were.”

PokerNews is out, but who’s in?

The question now is, will the WSOP take over live reporting duties themselves, or will they contract it out to another third-party and continue subsidizing the coverage?

However it shakes out, whoever decides to try to fill PokerNews’ shoes (be it the WSOP, Bluff, PokerListings, Cardplayer, or some other entity) will likely find the task both a curse and a blessing.

A curse in that covering the WSOP in the age of social media has become an all-consuming enterprise as players and fans expect immediate and accurate updates. Let’s face it; covering the WSOP is a logistical nightmare that requires long days and a strong team from top to bottom.

But as I said, it’s also a blessing, as virtually every poker reporter wants to cover the WSOP (so whoever takes over the live reporting will likely hire many of the same people PokerNews has employed over the years) and the traffic and brand boost would seem to be immense.

The one thing they will not be able to replicate is PokerNews’ vast experience, as the site has handled WSOP live reporting duties since 2007, and is widely regarded as the best in the industry at what they do.

Furthermore, as Parvis told P5’s, the operation is immense: “Our team at the WSOP is usually between 30 and 50 freelancers and employees. It’s an all-encompassing production. They need to be in Las Vegas for six or seven weeks and need to be housed, fed, and paid.”

What do “Exclusive” rights bestow?

The big question is: Has exclusive rights run its course, and would the WSOP be better off if all media present was treated equally? And by extension, is it even worth it for the outlet providing exclusive coverage?

PokerNews reporters were not the only people covering the tournament, as credentialed media people from various outlets were scattered throughout the tournament area, reporting on the action for whoever was employing them. All exclusive rights granted PokerNews was the ability to shoot video directly on the tournament floor. And of course having their coverage subsidized by the WSOP.

It seems the WSOP has an important decision to make.

One option available to them is to remove the limitations on video (or make ALL outlets conduct interviews off the tournament floor) and let the poker websites cover the events as they see fit – and on their own dime. When people were paying for the privilege it was a no-brainer for the WSOP, but now that they have to subsidize the “official” live reporting team I wonder if it’s worth it?

Another option is to keep the status quo and hire your own people. This might be an undertaking the WSOP would rather not tackle. Adding hiring, overseeing, reporting and video duties to the WSOP staff’s already extensive list of responsibilities seems like an unnecessary burden. This is certainly the most interesting of the possibilities, but it also seems like the most time-consuming for the WSOP.

The final option is to simply find a replacement for PokerNews. This means continuing to subsidize coverage, and also the uncertainty of working with the new entity. That being said, it would give the WSOP an official partner, and help direct Internet traffic to their WSOP.com website.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.

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