On the heels of federal indictments against three big Internet gambling companies, ESPN has removed all advertising and programming from its schedule temporarily.
PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker are major TV advertisers on cable networks that run poker programming. ESPN says, for the immediate future, it has removed all advertising and programming. Bloomberg first reported the news.
ESPN, NBC, Fox Sports Net and Game Show Network are major TV outlets that carry poker programming -- some 47 programs in all, according to one source. ESPN airs one of the biggest poker shows: "The World Series of Poker."
According to Kantar Media, Pokerstars.net spent $22.1 million in U.S. paid advertising in 2010 -- $10.3 million on cable networks; $3.5 million on broadcast networks; $2.7 million in magazines; $5.5 million on the Internet; and $69,000 on spot TV. FullTiltPoker.net spent $13.0 million in total paid advertising; $8.7 million on cable networks; $4.3 million on broadcast networks.
Although programming will be pulled in the short term, an ESPN spokesman added: "Plans for the 2011 WSOP [World Series of Poker] have not changed, and the event will air as scheduled beginning in July on ESPN."
Some 11 people are involved in federal charges, seeing $3 billion in money and penalties. Five Web sites were seized: Pokerstars.com, Fulltiltpoker.com, Absolutepoker.com, Ultimatebet.com and UB.com. PokerStars is based on the Isle of Man; Full Tilt Poker in Ireland; and Absolute Poker in Costa Rica.
Analysts say that while many U.S. poker events are legal businesses and have a diverse group of TV sponsors -- such as "The World Series of Poker" -- other shows exist purely because of the endemic poker TV advertising. As a result, many of those might shut down.