Epic Poker League launches next month at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, with its inaugural event. Just weeks before its kickoff, EPL announced that 20 hours of original programming are slated to be broadcast on CBS Television Network and Discovery Communications' Velocity Network.
The Velocity Network, an "upscale male lifestyle network" and will take the place of Discovery's HD Theater on Oct. 4, 2011. Velocity will air 13 hours of original EPL programming, as well as seven hours of re-aired episodes that will air on CBS Sports. Air dates and times have not yet been released.
“Epic Poker is proud to partner with CBS Television and Discovery Communications in our inaugural season,” said Jeffrey Pollack, executive chairman of the EPL and its parent company, Federated Sports + Gaming. “Both companies share our commitment to providing a world-class stage and significant new exposure for poker’s most talented live tournament players.”
The Epic Poker League broadcasts will be hosted by Emmy award-winning sports anchor and reporter Pat O'Brien and poker personality Ali Nejad. David Neal and 441 Productions will produce Epic Poker League for Velocity and CBS. Executive producer Neal and 441 Productions have numerous Emmys and accolades between them. Among other events, Neal has produced the Olympics and NBA Finals and 441 Productions is well-known for producing the World Series of Poker from 2003 to 2010.
"Epic will provide a rich storytelling environment for our television production,” said Neal in the press release. “We'll capture the rivalries, the personalities, and the strategies brought to each event by an elite roster of player. It's high stakes competition, with prestige and prize money on the line, and that makes an ideal setting for compelling entertainment."
PokerNews sat down with Jeffrey Pollack to discuss the EPL on Velocity.
Can you tell us about the decision to partner with Velocity and which events will be televised?
We're in business with one of the most highly regarded broadcast networks, CBS, and now the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Velocity is part of Discovery, which reaches 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in more than 200 countries, and CBS is in every household in America, pretty much. We've got two great telecast partners for our first year.
It's worth nothing that CBS, I think, was the original broadcaster of the WSOP back in the 70s. So in a funny kind of way, televised poker is coming home to where it began.
The four main events and the championship will be televised. For the first Pro-Am, the Heartland Poker Tour is going to produce a special and syndicate it, but this deal is just focused on the main event and the championship.
The entire season of the Epic Poker League will air on Velocity, but CBS Sports will also air seven hours of programming. How will that work?
We have 20 original hours in the first year with some number of those hours on CBS and some number on Velocity. Each channel will have some of each event and we'll have the exact schedule at the end of the summer.
The Velocity Network targets higher-income men and is strictly an HD channel, do you think this will alienate a large portion of the poker audience that has been left without a lot of poker programming on basic cable because of the recent effects of Black Friday?
No. Velocity launches in about 40 million homes, and based on Discovery's track record, it's going to grow very quickly. Most TV is produced in HD, today, so we're trying to be as forward-looking in our approach as possible. It's a new channel. We like that. We like that we're launching together and we are very confident in Discovery's proven track record to grow fully distributed channels.
There are some new names in the production with host Pat O'Brien and executive producer David Neal. Can you discuss you decision to bring these fresh faces to poker?
Pat is a sports broadcasting legend and icon and he's going to bring a very fresh perspective to how poker is presented and that's what David Neal is going to do. David is also new to poker but he's produced nine Olympics and every other major sporting event in the world. What he does, his skill set, his creative ability, he has applied to a wide variety of games and sports. He's now going to bring that perspective to poker.
We're marrying him with 441 Productions, which you know is one of the most highly regarded and prolific poker production houses in the world. It's going to be about bringing a fresh perspective to some very proven experience. Just as we have David and 441, that's why we have Pat and Ali Nejad. Ali is also a highly regarded poker personality, host, player, and writer. He's going to be in the booth with Pat, so we'll have Pat's fresh global sports perspective with Ali's deep and rich poker experience.
Are there any production surprises in store for the viewers?
We'll be doing some new things. We chose 441 because of their past experience in poker. They did an amazing job with ESPN. They helped bring the November Nine concept to life. Marrying their deep poker experience with David Neal's fresh perspective is going to result in a very compelling poker program.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.