After a month which began with fears that Season VII of the now legendary World Poker Tour might be without a network, news of a deal to bring the WPT to India bring an end to a striking turnaround.
WPT Enterprises have agreed a deal with the privately run Zee Network, one of the leading sports broadcasters in India. Steve Lipscomb, CEO and figurehead of the WPT, believes that “Zee Sports and WPTE together create a powerful partnership as the most trusted vehicles to introduce poker to India.” Under the terms of the deal the Zee Network will show nineteen 2-hour episodes form Season IV, which took place over 05-06. This is the first major foray into televised poker for the region and the broadcasting of more up to date editions of the WPT will no doubt depend on the success of this first run.
By bringing poker to the Indian masses the WPT have latched on to a great opportunity to expand the poker industry – just like it in America the WPT has the potential to turn the eye of the everyday Indian towards the green felt. By introducing poker to one of the fastest growing world economies the deal lays the foundations for millions of potential new poker players, not to mention millions of potential dollars.
With the announcement of this deal Lipscomb and co. can breathe a sigh of relief. Earlier in the year the Game Show Network announced that they would be dropping the WPT after only a year on the station, leaving the currently filming seventh season in limbo. Their saviour came in the form of the well known Fox Sports Network, who became the 3rd network in the shows history – following the GSN and the Travel Channel.
In an attempt to innovate what has become a tried and tested formula Limpscomb also announced that the show would be switching from a two hour to a one hour format. This move, it has been claimed, is to help preserve the drama of a recorded poker tournament. In previous years once the final 10 minutes begin it is often achingly obvious who the eventual victor will be. With the new format viewers may be left to wait until the next episode for full tournament closure.
The move to globalize the WPT is part of an endemic strategy among large scale tournament poker organizers. The success of the EPT has proved that there is a market for poker outside of the states, and with Indian and Chinese citizens looking for outlets for their new found wealth they form pokers two most potentially lucrative outlets. By striking this deal the WPT have taken the first definitive steps in claiming their own portion of that untapped potential.