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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

USA Today Bets on Rankings of Pro Poker Players

When it comes to mainstream, nothing says it like USA Today. And that suits the agenda at Hollywood’s Federated Sports + Gaming just fine.

The company, led by poker pro Annie Duke, is trying to take the game of poker out of the smoky backroom of the national consciousness and place it in the mainstream.

The company started by creating the Epic Poker League, a professional poker tour, earlier this year. The league’s tournaments, held at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, air on CBS during weekends.

Another step toward mainstreaming the sport has been establishing a player-ranking criterion, called the Global Poker Index, which Duke created with another Federated executive and an outside consultant.

Last week, USA Today announced that after a few months trying out the rankings in the paper, it will continue to publish them in its Sports section and online each Thursday.

The placement in the national paper with a circulation of nearly 2 million is fitting in nicely with the plan at Federated.

“Having the first proprietary poker ranking system alongside traditional sports scores and standings, we think, is a big part of the game,” said Jeffrey Pollack, a founder of Federated, who first approached USA Today Sports Media Group about running the company’s rankings earlier this year.

Also last week, Federated announced that sports blog TheBigLead.com, will syndicate editorial content written by Federated’s in-house writers.

Pollack noted that the site has a strong following among mainstream fantasy sports enthusiasts, a demographic that overlaps heavily with poker fans.

“This reflects our commitment to further mainstreaming the game of poker,” he said.

Local Programming

The next big thing in media is supposed to be Internet TV, which will allow viewers instant access to both traditional television programming and online fare.

A big component will be technology that will allow viewers in Los Angeles to interact with viewers in, say, Italy – so-called social TV.

It’s a possibility that makes the world feel smaller than ever, but the founder of one social TV startup thought it vital to move his company closer to the capital of traditional television.

Gabriele Gresta, an Italian media entrepreneur and chief executive of Bibop Inc., moved his company from Milan to Santa Monica last month. Now he’s trying to raise $20 million and sell his technology to TV networks.

“You have to raise American money,” said Greta, who was able to move using an E-2 visa, given to entrepreneurs that open businesses in the United States. “The situation in Europe is very static and not right for launching a technology company.”

Bibop’s main product is MyCast, a social network for TV viewers. Using a laptop, tablet or smartphone, viewers can access a program’s MyCast page using a Facebook or Twitter log-in. Once there, viewers can discuss the show or participate in interactive polls. The service also allows viewers to video chat with a talk show host, after vetting by the producers.

MyCast has already been used with European networks such as England’s BBC and Spain’s ETB1.

Gresta said networks are interested in accessing information from the social media accounts of users, which can be sold to advertisers or used in marketing efforts.

Gresta is meeting with executives from name-brand talk shows, one of which has signed up for a trial episode, as well as television networks and movie studios. But the startup is facing some heavy competition from the likes of Google Inc.’s social TV platform, Miso, and Yahoo Inc.’s Getglue.

“I’m recognized at a European level,” he said. “Now I have to prove that I’ll be able to compete with the top players globally.”

Hot Ticket

Hollywood’s MasterImage 3-D has signed with Shanghai Film Group Corp. to install its technology in the company’s Lian He group of theaters.

The state-owned exhibitor, which operates about 800 screens across China, made its name about a decade ago as one of the country’s first builders of multiplexes.

Now the chain is outfitting an undisclosed number of its screens with MasterImage’s 3-D technology, which the company sells to theaters for a flat fee.

MasterImage faces competition in China from Beverly Hills’ RealD, which licenses its technology to theaters in exchange for a share of box office revenue. Also a rival is Hollywood’s XpanD, which sells more expensive 3-D glasses and is considered the leader in the Chinese market, with about 1,500 screens in the country as of September.

MasterImage executives said the company expects to install the 3-D technology in theaters that have yet to be built by the chain, as Chinese theater construction keeps its feverish pace.

Some 2,500 to 3,000 new screens are expected to be built in China within the next year, said Patrick Frater, editor of trade publication Film Business Asia.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or (323)549-5225, ext. 226

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