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FSN Goes All-In on Poker

FSN is raising its bet on the TV-poker genre.

In an unprecedented arrangement between a network and a poker-based Web site, FSN and ( will deal out a new, made-for-television $60 million winner-take-all tournament next July.

The tourney is part of a three-year deal that will also yield a weekly, fast-paced poker series beginning in May, set inside an FSN-constructed “pokerdome,” according to executive vice president of programming and production George Greenberg.

FSN is rolling the dice in hopes that its new poker shows will help it to stand out from other network players at an increasingly crowded casino-gaming table.

“From a network perspective, this will be the largest poker deal ever brokered in television history,” Greenberg said, although he would not reveal specific financial figures. “This will feel every bit as big as our Fox NFL [National Football League] telecasts.”

Speaking of the broadcaster, the mega-event -- which will take place July 12, the day after Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game -- could wind up on Fox. Greenberg said FSN is talking with its broadcast brethren about televising the event, which could see its pot grow to $100 million by 2008.

Participants in the upcoming six-player event, slated for Australia, will have to outlay $10 million to “buy-in” to the tournament.

As for The Pokerdome Series, the two-hour show will air Sundays at 11 p.m. on FSN owned-and-affiliated regional sports networks for 43 consecutive weeks, according to Greenberg.

The series will originate within a high-tech arena dubbed “pokerdome,” which features a one-way mirror and microphones that allow fans to see and hear the action while keeping the players oblivious to the surroundings.

To appeal to younger viewers, Greenberg said, players will engage in a form of speed poker, in which each move will have to be made within 15 seconds. Overall, viewers will be able to see as many as 45 hands dealt during each two-hour show.

For more on FSN’s poker plans, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 25 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.