Two months before its official launch date, the new standalone cable network Poker Central is attracting increasing interest from advertisers, according to an Adage report this week.
The venture aims to reach some 50 million worldwide subscribers on launch in October this year, and daily fantasy sports firms have shown particular interest, with DraftKings among leading advertisers that include e-commerce player Dollar Shave Club and the Amazon Appstore.
Ads an sponsorships from the these three companies were included earlier this week when NBCSN previewed three one-hour episodes of Poker Central’s “Super High Roller Celebrity Shootout,” a $1 million No Limit Hold ‘Em tournament in which comic card sharks Norm Macdonald, Kevin Pollak, Brad Garrett, Hank Azaria and Don Cheadle competed for the chance to take on the winner of a five-man professional showdown (see previous report).
The Amazon Appstore logo appeared under each player profile and during hole-card shots, while one of two holographic DraftKings placards could be seen whenever the camera cut to Cheadle or Macdonald, and Dollar Shave Club backed the chip count.
Dollar Shave Club and Amazon dominated the advertising, accounting for 42 percent of Celebrity Shootout adspend.
DraftKings has pledged its support to the startup following significant but separate commitments to spend $250 million over three years on Fox Sports properties and another $250 million at ESPN (see previous reports).
Poker Central CEO Clint Stinchcomb has acknowledged that launching a startup network in a time of eroding cable and satellite subscriptions presents a formidable challenge, but told Adage that he is confident in the potential of the new venture, and looks forward to proving it following the launch.
Poker Central plans to launch in more than 30 countries, with U.S. carriers accounting for the bulk of the network’s initial subscriber base.
“The initial challenge is that 70 percent of the traditional cable universe is wrapped up in M&A, which prevents them from acting quickly,” Stinchcomb said.
Stinchcomb was with Discovery Channel during the dawn of the first poker boom in 2003, when the first season of “World Poker Tour” aired, and has some experience in the field to rely on.
He says that the 2011 federal crackdown on internet poker impacted growth in the vertical and ancillary companies, but that a new wave of poker interest is encouraging more mainstream brands to support ventures like Poker Central, and he claims that the beauty of this category is that it tilts male, but has a strong millennial appeal.
Initial trial performances of Poker Central have produced mixed results. On the positive side, a three-day mid-year streaming trial on Twitch recorded 1.5 million adult viewers in the key 18-34 year demographic.
However, Nielsen ratings for the first three NBCSN shows drew less than one-tenth of a ratings point.
Adage reports that Poker Central will carry some 2,000 hours of programming, including live games, instructional programming and documentaries on personalities.
The parent company of the privately held network is CRTV, publisher of the online publication Conservative Review. Investors include renowned poker pros Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu.