There are some in the broadcast industry who would consider poker on sports television to be nothing more than “filler” content, used simply to bridge the gap in the afternoons between lunch hour radio simulcasts and the first of the early evening live sportscasts. But a Calgary company is gambling on the increasing popularity of the universal card game, combined with the rapid ascendancy in digital TV viewership, to launch PokerVision, a 24-hour TV channel devoted to poker, sports handicapping, eSports and gaming, in the spring of 2017.
“This is a positive step forward for Canadian TV,” said Trevor Doerksen, President and CEO of ePlay Digital, the parent company of PokerVision Media, which was awarded an exempt Category B specialty TV license by the CRTC back in Sept. 2015.
ePlay Digital CEO Trevor Doerksen
“We often hear in the media that no one watches TV anymore,” Doerksen continued. “But the numbers belie that. One of the key stats we found in our research was that more people go to casinos in Canada than go to a NHL game. We intend to bring live events to those casinos and eSports tournaments to theatres and stadiums. You can convert a live audience to a TV audience.”
PokerVision plans to integrate other media platforms and mobile devices in its programming.
“Sports create an engagement with the audience that’s second to none,” Doerksen stated. “We plan to provide a mix of broadcast integration, what I call second screen 2.0. All things are ‘gamified’. We see the growth of games in our daily lives, with daily fantasy, for instance. The idea of gaming the game live is definitely built into the programming from the ground up.”
Doerksen has produced content for ESPN, the World Cup and the NBA. He knows sports programming is most effective when it draws an emotional response from the viewer. Through his company, ePlay Digital, Doerksen’s specialty is integrating technology and making the overall viewing experience both rich and engaging.
“Imagine predicting a result of a hand or a play on a mobile device,” said Doerksen, “and then seeing the result broadcast on the big screen. We’ll integrate badges and leaderboards. We’ll support that engagement on mobile. We even want our talent to check devices during a live show.”
PokerVision will be emphasizing live poker tournament programming upon its launch but Doerksen said his company has already started working with producers on developing original content, including reality shows and newsmagazines.
“We will be conducting open, online searches for shows and talent,” Doerksen said. “We’ll be auditioning for hosts and producers. Our programming will be a mix of Canadian content, US studio shows and some formats created in Canada to be produced and exported abroad.”
PokerVision is already in negotiations with several sponsors and plans to integrate branded content primarily on its mobile platforms, which would generate active and measurable results.
Doerksen says international sales are only a minor feature in the current revenue projections. Ad sales will be a larger component of both the digital and broadcast formats. He believes licensing rights for poker are high and still growing.
At a time when many television broadcasters across Canada are shutting down underperforming channels and even on demand streaming platforms, PokerVision is set to launch a multi-tiered digital system that will bridge sports content with high tech interactivity.