Poker Central is making a big bet on social media as the startup linear TV channel seeks out new ways to connect with card players and enthusiasts who tend to skew into that hard-to-reach millennials crowd.
One big card it’s playing is a channel on Twitch, the popular over-the-top live streaming service now owned by Amazon, and a new interactive show starring professional player Maria Ho, who has accumulated about $2.6 million in poker tournament earnings. The live show, called Poker Central Live With Maria Ho, is being offered three times a week, with each show running about five hours in length. Poker Central is announcing specific airdates on its website and the Twitch channel itself.
The Twitch offering is viewed as an OTT complement to the 24/7 Poker Central channel, which debuted on Oct. 1. (Distribution partners had not been announced at press time.)
The Twitch channel is also one component of Poker Central’s broader social-media strategy, which also includes a presence on Facebook, which had 274,976 “likes” as of last week. Its Twitter account (@PokerCentral_) has more than 16,700 followers.
MAKING A ‘POKER FACE’
In concert with this week’s network launch, Poker Central is also holding a “Poker Faces” contest on social media whereby viewers can upload their poker face for a chance to win one of three trips to the Aria in Las Vegas and for a private lesson with one of the pros.
Each month, one of the network’s three professional poker player partners — Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari or Phil Hellmuth — will act as judge and provide the winner with his or her lesson.
That’s all part and parcel of a plan to connect with younger viewers in places they frequent. “We know there’s a strong millennial audience interest in poker,” Clint Stinchcomb, CEO of Poker Central (and a former Discovery Networks executive), said.
He said Poker Central knew it was onto something with Twitch following a summer trial on the platform of the Super High Roller Cash Game ($250,000 buy-in).
“Millennials came to Twitch and participated aggressively,” Stinchcomb said, noting that the event generated 1.5 million unique in a bare-bones offering that didn’t include elements such as onscreen graphics and a view of the players’ hole cards.
“Twitch, for us, is about promotion,” Stinchcomb said, noting that Poker Central will also use the platform to pump in clips from the primary network, which will start off with about 2,000 hours of content, spanning categories such as tournament programming; instructional programming, news and highlights; player bios and documentaries; and poker-themed films. Poker Central’s primetime slate will include shows and series such as Super High Roller Cash Game, Heads Up Grand Slam, Poker After Dark, Doubles Poker Championship, Face the Ace and 100 Greatest Poker Moments, among others.
SOCIAL PROMO POWER
Stinchcomb is also a fan of using mobile live streaming platforms such as Periscope and Meerkat to provide an additional social-media vehicle for Poker Central. For instance, poker pros, many of whom have huge followings on social media, can use those platforms to promote upcoming telecasts.
Don’t expect to see Poker Central follow in the footsteps of CBS, HBO and Showtime and sell its primary service over-the-top, though.
“We’re not in the business of going direct to the consumer,” Stinchcomb said. “I’m not a huge fan of the direct-to-consumer business, personally … We’re focused on providing what meets the need of today’s distributor.”
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