Once again the National Heads Up Poker Championship broadcasts on NBC have been a success across the board, from the players who competed in the event to the ratings for the six week broadcast run of the tournament.
This Sunday (May 21st) from 1-3PM, the semi-final matchups and the best two of three Championship Tournament will feature some of the greatest names in the game. The battle of former World Champions starts off the semi-finals as Chris "Jesus" Ferguson attempts to make the finals for the second consecutive year against the 1996 World Champion Huck Seed. The survivor of that duel will have no easy track to the title as noted cash game specialist Ted Forrest and the young and brash Sean Sheikhan. These two matches, as well as the Championship of the event, will wrap up NBC's coverage of the 2006 NHUPC.
NBC has to be enthused about the ratings for this year's event, especially when it compares them against 2005. In last year's six hours of tournament coverage, the broadcasts were run along with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness during the month of May (both on Saturdays as well). With this year's broadcasts, the National Heads Up Poker Championship has been the leadoff hitter for Sunday sports coverage for the network and the program has consistently beaten every sporting event shown on Sundays except for NASCAR (it has also occasionally beaten PGA golf and NBA basketball during the six week run). Between the two years the ratings have been what NBC was looking for.
Ratings have been strong, even with the change from Saturday to Sunday and the loss of the Triple Crown horse racing events to help draw viewers. The ten hours of coverage that has made up this year's NHUPC has drawn an average of 1.4 percent of viewing households in the United States (or share), which translates out to an average of around 1.35 million viewers. These numbers are equal to what the tournament drew in its six hours of coverage in 2005. Ratings have been exceptional in certain individual markets, with such diverse areas of the country as Sacramento, CA (4.6 share), Richmond, VA (3.5), Boston and Las Vegas (2.8) leading the viewership of the program.
With these numbers in mind, NBC is already looking ahead to 2007. While it will once again run for a six week period in May, coverage will be expanded to eleven hours. The extra hour will focus primarily on the semi-final and finals matchups and should be an excellent addition to the program. Coming back to host the National Heads Up Poker Championship in 2007 will be the broadcast team of play by play man Max Vasgersian and color commentator Gabe Kaplan and Kathryn Tappen will continue her role as the "sideline reporter" for the series.
The excitement and the skills demonstrated by the players during the Heads Up Championship seem to have given something to everyone, from ratings success to NBC to a thrilling set of matches for the viewers. While the tournament will wrap up this Sunday, there's always 2007 to look forward to! For more details on the National Heads Up Poker Championship, be sure to visit the website at nbcheadsup.com.
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