Jennifer Newell recently commented on data compiled by Mediarex and determined that poker attracts longtime, or even lifetime fans. I also looked at the same data and saw a couple of interesting trends that aren’t exactly boding well for the Global Poker League.
Based on the data compiled by Mediarex, the GPL isn’t exactly producing the buzz or the excitement that one might expect. Let’s take a look at some of this data and what the GPL can do to increase fan interest in the league.
Many Have Heard But Most Don’t Watch
Fans were polled on whether or not they have heard about the Global Poker League and not surprisingly, over 61% of fans polled had heard of the new pro league. The rest either had not heard or weren’t quite sure. (Perhaps they were mixing it up with the old Epic Poker League.)
However, the chart also revealed a very telling stat regarding viewership. Among the 68% that had heard of the league, only 30.5% of those fans have actually watched the GPL. The data didn’t break down as to why fans are not watching and that would have been important information to collect in terms of improving the product.
If one were to speculate, the lack of viewership could come from a combination of mode of transmission and the format with which it is broadcast. Many fans were expecting a live format for these games and with many games being played online with a webcam for players, it looks like a glorified Twitch stream.
Also, the league I believe suffers from the lack of TV exposure. While everyone loves to watch poker live streamed, there are many more that prefer to watch it on TV. The edited TV poker format still has a following and the GPL is limiting themselves in this aspect.
Fans Don’t Appear to Want to “Invest” In the League
Some stats that I found surprising were the number of fans that said that they would not like to be part of the Global Poker League. A staggering 45.4% of those polled said they did not want to be a part of the GPL with another 14.3% saying they didn’t know. Normally, non-committals tend to lean no. Only 30% of those polled said they would definitely play in the GPL.
Next, when asked if fans would be interested in buying GPL gear with team logos, 58.8% said no while 17.6% said they didn’t know. Just over 23% said they would buy GPL gear.
What this is telling me is that people aren’t quite willing to “invest” into the GPL as a product. If you were to poll the same fans about whether they wanted to play at the WSOP, the WPT or most any other poker event, you’d probably have a majority say yes they would.
What Can the GPL Do to Increase Exposure?
The first thing that the GPL needs to explore is ways to increase exposure to the product and increase fan interest. First, many fans have spoken out over wanting to see live competition for the weekly rounds and this is something that the GPL might want to consider.
It is understandable that playing the games online is the most cost-effective way to handle the league at its present stage but if the league wants to grow, they need to consider making it largely a live format.
With that said, “The Cube” wasn’t exactly what we expected it to be. It was less “Mad Max Thunderdome” and more American Gladiators without the good looking athletes.
Did anyone really watch the Cube matches besides the Aaron Paul match? Based on my personal polling, most tuned in to that match and skipped the rest. There are definite improvements needed for The Cube or else the concept could be doomed to failure.
Next, along with more live matches, the GPL needs some type of TV exposure. Even if they go the route of Poker Night in America and put it on CBS Sports or a similar station, they need to find an outlet that will beam it into the homes of poker fans. Relying on a stream is great if you’re Jason Somerville, but not if you’re looking to establish yourself as the premier professional poker league.
How Can they Get Fans to Become Invested?
Getting fans to invest, whether emotionally or with their wallets, is going to require the league to come up with a product that makes the fans excited. Right now, I just don’t see that. One thing that is sorely missing in the league or over the top personalities. There are a lot of great players but where are the players that media or fans can rally behind either to love or hate.
Also, the lack of involvement by some of the game’s most notable players makes the league less than appealing to casual fans. It is the casual fans that the GPL needs to make the league a success, not the hardcore poker fan.
Lastly, I would try and find a way to involve casual fans and amateur players. One reason that the WPT, WSOP, PNIA and other leagues are so popular is that casual fans believe that they have a shot to play if they can just get the buy-in. The GPL doesn’t offer this due to being a pro league.
One thing I liked about the Epic Poker League was their Pro-Am event that allowed players a chance to play in a EPL Main Event. I would like to see something similar offered in the GPL.
The GPL website lists a Pro-Am event for the 2016 season and I am interested to see how it is accepted by fans. I would like to see it taken a step further and maybe provide a way for a player to play their way into either an actual league event or even earn a contract for a GPL squad. One or two per league per year. While that isn’t on the same level as playing your way into the Main Event online, it will stir up excitement among players and get them interested.
The GPL is Young and Has Room and Time to Grow
One thing that is working in the favor of the GPL is that the league does not appear in danger of folding up after its first year like other pro poker leagues. Alex Dreyfus planned for this and this will give the league room, and more importantly, time to grow.
The GPL hasn’t overextended themselves like the EPL did in Season 1 and it is a safe bet we will see additional seasons of the league. How long the league will last will depend a lot on how much they improve their product and how successful they are at getting fans to engage and invest in the league.
With the right changes, the GPL can become the first truly pro league of poker. The GPL, even with its flaws, is great for poker and I hope that I’m able to write about their “flaws” for years to come.