Two big companies are betting that poker will remain popular for years to come. Harrah's Entertainment Inc. announced today an agreement with ESPN Inc. to extend their coverage of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) through 2010, as well as an agreement for Milwaukee's Best Light to become the presenting sponsor and official beer of the WSOP through 2008.
"Since 1993, ESPN has been the exclusive telecast partner of the World Series of Poker. Its programming expertise and global distribution has helped our tournament become the biggest and the best," said Jeffrey Pollack, commissioner of the World Series of Poker.
One of the new features of the ESPN coverage this year will be a live pay-per-view telecast of final-table play at the $10,000 No-Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship. Last year the World Series of Poker awarded nearly $53 million in prize money to contestants of this event, with world champion Joseph Hachem earning $7.5 million. This year's top prize is expected to be $10 million.
The pay-per-view telecast will be offered in addition to ESPN's regularly televised presentation of the WSOP and the Circuit championships. Thirty-two hours of coverage will be telecast on ESPN beginning July 18, and the pay-per-view program, available on home television screens or live video screen at ESPN.com, is scheduled to start Aug. 10 and continue until the new champion is crowned. ESPN coverage will be broadcast until October 31.
The ESPN agreement comes at the same time as Harrah's landmark deal with Milwaukee's Best Light which will integrate Milwaukee into several facets of the WSOP and promote it nationally on a year-round basis.
The agreement calls for: a new joint mark featuring the WSOP and Milwaukee's Best Light logos; the "Milwaukee's Best Light Pocket Cam," which will be featured during the broadcast to show ESPN viewers each player's hole cards; and the "Milwaukee's Best Light Beer Garden," an area adjacent to the official poker room at the WSOP, accessible to both players and spectators.
"This is a game-changing alliance for the World Series of Poker," Pollack said. "Miller Brewing is one of the top sports marketers in the world, and Milwaukee's Best Light is a brand on the move that reflects our own sense of fun, creativity, excitement and authenticity. This pact further solidifies our position as the number one poker brand in the world and helps introduce us as a change agent for a select group of consumer-product companies."