Will the WPT Still Exist in 2009?

Maybe not, according Steve Lipscomb, pizza friends

by , Jun 7, 2008 | 12:24 pm

So the days keep ticking by — May 24, June 1, June 7 … and still no word on the future of the World Poker Tour. The best guess is that the WPT is still trying to renegotiate something with GSN. It’s all a shame, really, not just because once upon a time the WPT did so much for poker, but also because this current season — #6 — is proving to be one of their finest in years. Seriously, have you watched any episodes this season? They’re really good. Loved the set for Turks and Caicos, and the action and commentary on all the other episodes has been significantly better than in previous seasons.

But it may be too little too late according to insider gossip and semi-substantiated rumors. The first piece of evidence we have, of course, is the stock price (WPTE), which is continuously descending beyond its all-time low. $1.16/share=not good.

Now let’s go back to non-poker Christmastime … when the WPT supposedly held some sort of employee-appreciation pizza party, and CEO Steve Lipscomb reportedly told his people that things were not looking good for the WPT — specifically that he wasn’t sure if they’d make it to the end of 2008, and that they might-wanna start looking for other work. Yikes. This information is secondhand rumor from two or more reliable sources, at least one of whom may or may not still be working for the WPT.

CORRECTION: Have crossed out some possibly erroneous info above. Supposedly what Lipscomb really told his people was that 2008 was going to be a “very rough year” … and some in attendance drew those conclusions simply on their knowledge of what it takes to nurse a super-short stack until better cards/times arrive.Crap, there goes my whole premise for this post.

Furthering suspicions, a California headhunter says her office was flooded with resumes from managerial and executive-level employees of the WPT in January of this year. 17+ is the number we’re hearing.

So there you have it — rampant speculation deduced from public information combined with whispers on a semi-informed street suggesting that whatever does or doesn’t happen with GSN, it may be a last-ditch effort to save the show a struggling business. Read into it whatever you must, and in the meantime we’ll keep checking Steve Lipscomb’s blog for an update but won’t expect much …

(Have a look at his fifth most recent comment, from yours truly, left in January ’07. Still waiting for a response …)


9 Comments to “Will the WPT Still Exist in 2009? ”


  1. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    If things are going so bad for Steve and company, why would they hold a tournament in Europe (with no TV), sign Antonio Esfandiari to be their spokesman, give all of their tournament winners something that resembles a bracelet and create WPT Canada? Burning off the rest of their cash? What say you Mr. Tse…


  2. DanM
    says:

    Perhaps setting things up for a sale? It’s possible that has something to do with the GSN-decision delays.


  3. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    Makes my WPT to NBC fake rumor all the more tempting to believe.


  4. California Jen
    says:

    Why, you ask? Because some WPT execs may be in denial about what’s happening to poker on TV. Shall I make a comparison to Hillary Clinton, who resided in the land of denial for quite some time?


  5. DanM
    says:

    Jen, you Obama-lover … you are so biased in your comment/political comparison. That whole race was about whether America wants to have its first black president or first woman president first … and black won. But don’t go accusing Hillary of being in denial until a little after she was mathematically eliminated. I mean after all, how many WPT viewers Obama backers wish Al Gore had done something similar?

    With all this said, I feel my comment about the potential sale is really out of nowhere. I have no evidence beyond all the circumstantial stuff above to suggest that. But I am just wondering.

    Today is supposed to be the day for the big GSN agreement. So we’ll see who’s off-base and how far.


  6. Poker Shrink
    says:

    Remember my #1 rule when talking about poker sites and poker companies: they are generally managed by people who were poker players and have limited business education or experience prior to falling into this goldmine. WPT is notorious for making decisions based on the complete absence of a business plan or even the understanding of what a business plan is.


  7. California Jen
    says:

    That’s the strange thing, Shrink. WPT is run by a businessman/attorney who is quite the numbers/business guy.

    Dan, Hillary lost the nomination weeks ago. Denial, denial, denial.


  8. olivert
    says:

    Read the Reuters article published on June 9:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/televisionNews/idUSN0941326820080609?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true

    The fundamental problem remains: GSN is losing money on the WPT Season 6 TV deal (at $6.9 million in rights fee plus a ratings bonus for getting over 500,000 households per episode) based on the rates the advertising is selling (I was able to obtain a scatter ad rate quote).

    Even with Honda Civic now abroad as a “presenting” sponsor of WPT on GSN (and paying premium rates), I estimate that GSN will be at least $3 million in the red on the WPT Season 6 TV deal after each of the Season 6 episodes have aired 3 times by late August.

    WPT on GSN was drawing over 200,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo when you added all 3 airings of the first episode together on March 24-30. If the 111,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo quoted by Reuters were correct (I suspect that the Sunday airing was NOT included in that number), then the viewership of WPT on GSN had gotten worse since March.

    New GSN President/CEO David Goldhill isn’t an enemy of poker as some would believe. He just has ZERO tolerance for losing money on a TV program. Right now, WPT on GSN is losing money, while HSP on GSN has an even older audience skew compared to WPT on GSN which makes selling non-poker “sports” advertising (i.e. beer, mobile phones, fast food and casual dining restaurants, soft drinks/energy drinks, etc.) nearly impossible.

    (The 18-49 demo viewership for both WPT and HSP on GSN were bad enough that both have “tainted” other poker TV programs in the U.S. market (i.e. WSOP, NBC Heads-Up) in the minds of advertising executives at the major ad agencies, many of whom are advising their “sports” TV sponsors to stay away from poker unless poker TV were able to prove that young viewers are coming back. 2008 WSOP Main Event final table on ESPN this November is the only chance left.)

    I knew as of the first week of April that there was no possible way GSN would have picked up the option for WPT Season 7 at the asking price over $300,000 per episode.

    I ran into a high-ranking WPTE official at the Bellagio prior to the WPT Championship IV TV final table and I offered suggestions and I wished him luck in finding a TV solution to WPT Season 7. The fact that he didn’t stop to tell me that I was wrong told me that I understood the situation well enough to know the problem he was facing.

    The one wild card out there: will FullTiltPoker.net “backstop” the WPT by buying TV time on a U.S. network so that “FullTiltPoker.net presents World Poker Tour Season 7” will air as a time buy on either FSN (on Saturday night at 11pm local) or ESPN2 (on Sunday afternoons during NFL season in September-January). That remains an intriguing possibility in light of the player lawsuit settlement.


  9. DanM
    says:

    Glad to see Pokerati’s syndication via Reuter’s is actually accomplishing something.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/blogBurst/entertainment?bbPostId=B1aOcICWkTkfCz3NT1ZA5Knm2BEPaEAJ3IxiNCz3BVvdxtT1Re

    (Their editors seem to read the blogs they scrape-with-permission, but the posts are pretty much hidden from everyone else’s view except for google.)