LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - How often does a network
cancel its highest-rated show?
Fearful poker fans are betting cable channel GSN (formerly
known as Game Show Network) is running out of time to renew two
of its most popular series, "High Stakes Poker" and "World
Typically by this time of year, the shows would be in
production on their next seasons. But since the exit of
president and CEO Rich Cronin last year and installation of
former Universal Television group head David Goldhill, more
than a dozen GSN staffers have left the channel and some
speculate that the poker shows may be next to get the axe.
The renewal delay has caused poker publications and blogs
in recent weeks to declare "High Stakes" dead and "WPT" in
jeopardy since both are near the end of their pickup windows.
In March, GSN reportedly canceled game show "Lingo," its fourth
highest-rated show in the coveted adults 18 to 49 demo.
According to GSN, such reports are premature. Various
options are still being weighed, a spokesman said, and no
decision has yet been made. The network was supposed to make a
call on "WPT" by Saturday, but the network and WPT are expected
to release a joint statement Monday to assure shareholders of
WPT Enterprises that that the parties are still in talks.
Theories vary about the network's lack of enthusiasm toward
the shows. The poker series are too expensive, goes one.
Goldhill wants to steer GSN away from his predecessor's
interest in the poker genre and toward traditional game shows,
"High Stakes" commentator Gabe Kaplan, currently playing
cards in Las Vegas as the World Series of Poker gets underway,
said the fate of the poker shows is the talk of the tables.
"Everybody is surprised and nobody knows why this is
happening, really," Kaplan said. "('High Stakes') is all
everybody talks about here, because it's the show that all the
As on Kaplan's show, the stakes are indeed high. Among
adults 18 to 49, the one-hour "High Stakes" is GSN's top-rated
show (averaging 117,000 viewers in the demo). The recent
fourth-season was its best yet, jumping 20% in the demo. The
two-hour "WPT" is averaging sixth in its current debut season
on the network (111,000).
Among total viewers, the shows are less successful on GSN,
a network that tends to skew older: "WPT" ranks seventh
(averaging 349,000 viewers) and "High Stakes" is 28th
"WPT" and "High Stakes" are among the few survivors of the
early 21st century poker phenomenon that inspired numerous
basic cable and broadcast programs, as well as several feature
The tournament-based "WPT" helped spearhead the poker boom
when it launched on the Travel Channel in 2003. Last year, the
show jumped networks to GSN after Travel decided to distance
itself from off-brand poker programming.
"High Stakes" was a relative latecomer to the genre, but
introduced televised cash games where poker pros risk up to
hundreds of thousands per hand of their own money instead of
playing in a traditional tournament.
GSN owns the rights to "High Stakes," so it's unclear if
producer Poker Prods. would be able to shop the show to other
networks. The company also produces NBC's "Poker After Dark,"
which plans to try out a couple "High Stakes"-style cash games
"These networks took a chance for poker and put it in the
mainstream," said Poker Prods. CEO Mori Eskandani. "If they
decide with the new CEO and their new direction that poker is
not really working, that it has no cross promotional value,
then I respect that."