WPT Shifts Focus to Online Poker and Distribution
The World Poker Tour was one of many poker businesses that suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was forced to cancel events on its main tour and WPTDeepStacks tour, both in the US and around the world. The swift spread of COVID-19 through Asia, Europe, and then North America prompted governments to prohibit gatherings and travel, both obviously necessary for live poker events.
Luckily, WPT had already been exploring some online poker options and had its ClubWPT subscription website upon which to lean. While these endeavors were certainly no substitutes for the actual live poker tournaments and series, it was something.
Gearing Up for WPT Online
When it became clear that there would be mass tournament cancellations from mid-March through most of April, the World Poker Tour pulled something out of its back pocket.
The team at WPT had already been working with its partners at PartyPoker to develop an online poker series that would complement the WPT’s live tours. Considering the planning for that project had already been about two years in the world, there was no better time to put the finishing touches on it and do it.
The WPT then introduced the WPT Online Series by PartyPoker, a series of online poker tournaments that would include a WPT Main Event, a WPT500 event, and even a WPTDeepStacks. In all, there were 10 events with $15 million in guarantees, but PartyPoker planned to add more tournaments on its end to offer another $15 million guaranteed.
Originally, the series was set to start on May 10 and run through May 26. However, with everything set to go and players clearly anxious to play online poker (per traffic numbers for any and every poker site), the WPT and PartyPoker moved it up one week. It will now run May 3-19.
Read the complete guide to the series and 👀 the entire schedule with buy-ins starting at $50 💰
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) April 27, 2020
In addition, the company took WPTDeepStacks online for players in France and Spain. That series ran April 5-20 and saw every tournament surpass its guarantee. It was a solid success.
Reflecting on 2020 First Quarter
It is safe to say that the vast majority of companies around the world took painful hits to their first quarter 2020 numbers. Companies that relied on land-based gaming were no different, with casinos taking the biggest hits and most poker tours out of revenue completely.
The World Poker Tour did have the online options, as mentioned, and the WPT subscription poker site. Even so, its first quarter took a hit.
When the company took a look at its first quarter numbers for this year, it issued a press release to show the WPT’s adjusted focus in the near future. As it seems that it may take months – at the very least – for traveling and gathering in groups to inch back to normalcy, the WPT does have short-term plans in the meantime.
WPT Studios highlighted that syndication increased by 25% to reach new households via agreements with AT&T, Sinclair, Cox Sports, Right Now TV, Action Channel, and Altitude Sports. And OTT viewership was up 125% in the first quarter on a number of platforms – PlutoTV, SamsungTV, and Xumo. That increase put the viewership at 8.2 million. And the WPT on FOX Sports continues to reach more than one million viewers weekly.
WPT CEO noted, “Online and distribution are vital parts of the WPT portfolio and proving, once again, to be valuable in uncertain global times.”
WPT Marks Company Pivot in Q1 Toward Online Gaming and Expanded Global Television Distribution
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) April 23, 2020
Per the WPT, its ClubWPT subscription online poker site is “in the midst of rapid growth.”
The company attributes some of this to the ClubWPT Million Dollar Bonus, which launched in January. This promotion lasts through 2020 and pertains to any ClubWPT VIP player who qualifies for a WPT Main Event. Should that person win that main tour event, ClubWPT will pay that player a $1 million bonus.
The WPT also notes that part of the 68% virtual currency sales growth on ClubWPT in Q1 2020 was due to the new focus on digital and online content in the coronavirus climate. New registrations were also up 39% year-on-year in Q1, and billed subscribers increased 8.3%.
That focus shift to ClubWPT has included a much larger role for WPT personalities. Lynn Gilmartin, Vince Van Patten, Matt Savage, and Tony Dunst each livestream sessions at least once per week on the WPT Twitch channel. They just updated the schedule for this week, which is as follows:
–Thursday, April 30 at 11pm ET: Tony Dunst
–Friday, May 1 at 9pm ET: Vince Van Patten
–Saturday, May 2 at 7pm ET: Lynn Gilmartin
–Sunday, May 3 at 4pm ET: Matt Savage
ClubWPT is even offering a free 14-day trial at this time to give more players the chance to discover how the site works and the potential prizes.
#TGIM! For the most of us that means staying inside and playing the Monday Night #Poker #Party tourney series on ClubWPT™ at 8 PM ET. Register @ https://t.co/QldYyNe5Mn Take a 14-day FREE trial* on us @ https://t.co/t7hcN50fmz – *NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. pic.twitter.com/FtGRPiwA0f
— ClubWPT (@ClubWPT) April 27, 2020