It’s been about a week since Joe Hachem gave his interview on how WSOP Main Event champions need to step up their ambassadorship efforts. And the discussion hasn’t stopped, with Daniel Negreanu recently bringing up an interesting perspective on poker television coverage.
Negreanu thinks that ESPN and 411 Productions could learn a thing or two from how NBC presents the Winter Olympics. As KidPoker pointed out through twitter, casual viewers aren’t exactly on a first-name basis with winter sports athletes. So NBC does a good job of focusing on athletes’ backstories. Here’s a sample of what Negreanu tweeted:
Winter Olympics provide a great example. Public doesn’t know the people or the sports but with great story telling fans & stars are created.
Much of the poker boom should be credited to ESPN and 411 Productions who spent time developing stars of poker. We have gotten away from it.
There is something interesting about EVERYONE! It’s up to the production team to find out what that is, then sell it to the public.
I have ALWAYS believed the focus should never be on the game, but on the characters who play it. We waste time appeasing the wrong demo.
Global poker numbers don’t seem to suggest that the game’s popularity is immediately dying off. However, Negreanu and other pros don’t feel like this popularity is sustainable if personality and interesting backstories aren’t brought back into the fray.
But it’s worth mentioning that, over the past five years or so, tournament TV coverage has been catering to more of a hardcore audience. So to revert back to how WSOP coverage was presented in the mid-2000’s and earlier would be a huge change. And not everybody is a fan of this either. Isaac Haxton is one of them, as you can see from the following tweets:
@RealKidPoker Comparing poker to the Olympics is perfect… if you want poker to be like snowshoeing, which people only watch every 4 years
@RealKidPoker But for something that is on tv consistently every week like other popular sports, in-depth analysis is completely appropriate
@RealKidPoker Poker lends itself to serious analysis on TV even more so because so many fans of the game play poker competitively themselves
@RealKidPoker Furthermore it’s insulting to the viewers to assume that they can’t or don’t want to understand the real mechanics of the game
@RealKidPoker More serious doesn’t have to mean less fun. TV commentary can be sophisticated while still being lighthearted and entertaining
Haxton brings up a good point too. However, the question here is what’s more important to a long-term sustainable poker population? Serious pros who understand check-raise analysis, or casual observers who keep filtering into the game and mostly serving as fish?
But as Haxton stated, maybe there’s a good way to blend sophisticated strategy talk along with jokes and lighthearted content. If so, ESPN really needs to add more of the latter if they want poker to continue growing.