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NBC Sports, Poker Central Set Pact for Cable TV, Digital Distribution

Variety logo Variety 4/3/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

NBC Sports Group is putting down chips on the poker felt.

The NBCUniversal sports media division struck an agreement with Poker Central to present Poker Central programming across its TV and digital platforms. The move comes after Poker Central in late 2016 pulled the plug on its own linear network, after garnering only limited distribution.

Poker Central programming will debut on NBCSN (formerly called NBC Sports Network) on Monday nights as soon as summer with the Super High Roller Bowl, set to run May 28-31 in Las Vegas, along with other high-stakes poker events. In addition, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app for mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs will provide streaming coverage for Poker Central content.

A rep for Poker Central said the company has additional TV distribution deals in the works, but declined to provide details. Owners of the privately held company include Cary Katz — a top professional poker player and founder of College Loan Corp., who launched Poker Central in 2015 — and poker pros Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari.

Poker has been a reliable draw on TV for ESPN, which has broadcast World Series of Poker events since the late ’80s.

“Partnering with Poker Central allows us to continue to deliver high-quality programming, while creating a destination for both existing and new poker fans alike,” Gary Quinn, VP of programming, NBC Sports Group, said in a statement.

J.R. McCabe, Poker Central’s chief digital officer who previously was SVP of video at Time Inc., said the company is “creating a comprehensive platform that truly stands out in a crowded content space.”

“Partnering with the distinguished NBC Sports Group allows us to distribute our content to a platform-agnostic audience,” McCabe said.

The 2017 edition of Poker Central’s Super High Roller Bowl — billed as the biggest buy-in poker tournament at $300,000 per player — hosts top poker players from around the world and one celebrity player yet to be announced. After the tourney (originally capped at 50 players) sold out in less than a day, Poker Central expanded the field to 56 players who will compete for a share of the $16.8 million purse, with the first-place finisher taking home $6 million.

Pictured above: The final table of the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at Las Vegas’ Aria Resort and Casino.

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