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CBS Sports Says 'Deal Me In'

High-stakes poker isn't just for cable anymore.

CBS Sports will brand 12 poker tournaments on the network per a new pact with ProJo Poker Enterprises, according to ProJo President/CEO Tony DeRosa-Grund.

CBS will air seven hourlong tournaments, plus the two-hour finals and four two-hour specials in a time-buy arrangement in which ProJo purchases the time for the broadcasts from the network and sells the ads itself .

The 26-week ProJo season begins in September. The tournaments will be taped, with the hourlong tournaments airing Sunday afternoons between May and July.

CBS's first poker broadcast will be a Yuletide poker tournament (Ho-Ho Hold 'em, perhaps), which the network will air Christmas day from 3-5 p.m.

The other specials are the U.S. National Team Poker Championships, the U.S. National Amateur Poker Championship and the U.S. Grand Nationals Professional Poker Championship..

And for those viewers who want a seat at the table themselves, CBS Sportsline is creating a "poker arena," where Web surfers can park and play a few hands for prizes, including cash and a trip to Las Vegas for a seat at the table for the tournament finals.

The ProJo tournaments, which launch in September, have a reality TV feel to the format. "Average joe" players square off against each other in the early rounds for a chance to take on professional card players (hence the combination of "pro" and Jo").

ESPN has had success with its World Series of Poker and online free poker area, and NBC has aired specials, but this is the first foray into continuing poker coverage for a broadcast network--OK, continuing selling of their time to a third party--of the TV-friendly, no-limit Texas hold 'em game.

The ProJo folks approached CBS about the new tournament series, says DeRosa-Grund, thanks to a long-standing relationship.

DeRosa-Grund used to run the film and entertainment end of Archie Comics, where CBS parent Viacom deficit-financed its Sabrina, the Teenage Witch series, which aired for five seasons on ABC and two on The WB.

There will be a syndication window for all 26 tournaments, says DeRosa-Grund, but CBS will get the pick of the kitty for its seven.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.