As TV poker begins to flag in the ratings, CBS Sports is putting its marker on blackjack.
CBS has signed a deal with Blackjack Entertainment to carry a weekly hourlong package of 10 “Ultimate Blackjack Tour” telecasts, with the first airing Saturday, Sept. 16, at 2 p.m.
Commitment extends to a second group of “Blackjack Tour” hours, scheduled to kick off sometime next spring.
Exec producers of the tour are Houston Curtis, head of Big Vision Entertainment, and the showbiz attorney Jon Moonves.
What’s unique about the deal is that Curtis, Moonves and the founder of the tour, Russ Hamilton, ponied up more than a million dollars on spec to produce all 10 hours of the first season to distinguish it from other blackjack shows on cable networks like GSN (Daily Variety, Dec. 2).
The format calls for the elimination of three players during each game to create “Survivor”-like suspense. Competish began with more than 100 contestants at seven tables in Las Vegas; that number got whittled down to seven players in a final-table championship taped at a rented studio in CBS TV City in Los Angeles. Show presented prizes totaling more than $1.2 million, awarding the final winner $300,000.