Mediarex Sports & Entertainment said it has raised $4.9 million to “sportify” poker.
The London-based company is the parent of the Global Poker Index, a ranking authority for 450,000 professional poker players. Mediarex wants to aggregate the fragmented global audience for poker into a single professional league with a series of poker teams. With more than 100 million poker players around the world, it hopes to build poker into an esport.
The private investors include an unnamed “first-tier private equity fund” in Beijing and angel investors from telecom, sports marketing, and financial sectors in Asia and Europe.
Alex Dreyfus, the chief executive of MSE, said in a statement, “Poker is an old game but a young industry. It’s a game that continues to grow, too. It’s a large audience, and the best way to aggregate it is to promote poker like a sport.”
He noted that poker’s global growth from 2012 and 2013 was 17 percent, and it saw a 9.4 percent increase in 2014 in live competition entries. Digital interest in the game continues to grow as well, up 31 percent in the first half of 2015.
The Global Poker Index is launching the Global Poker League (GPL) in early 2016 in the U.S. and European markets. So far, the Global Poker Index has been able to hold a live poker competition, dubbed the Global Poker Masters — Poker’s World Cup. The event drew nearly a million unique viewers in March 2015.
MSE plans to use the funds to become “a full stack sports entertainment and media operator.” It will use its own in-house video production facilities to deliver streamed poker videos and TV and live TV broadcasts of events such as the Global Poker League and World Cup globally. The hope is to create new fan experiences and raise the media profiles of professional players.
“China will likely be the epicenter of the next poker boom, and this time the boom looks to be powered by esports, the video game, media, and sports industries,” Dreyfus said. “Thanks to our new investors, we’ll be able to reach new strategic partnerships in China to help develop the sport of poker there, creating a domino effect that has globally positive effects.”
The Global Poker Index currently controls the largest live poker event and player-results database, www.thehendonmob.com, as well as the European Poker Awards, the American Poker Awards, and both ceremonies’ adjacent poker conferences. The index plans to introduce the Asian Poker Awards in 2016 as well.
As a poker player ranking authority, MSE’s Global Poker Index is the official ranking system for poker’s largest franchises, such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the European Poker Tour (EPT) and Asia-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), among dozens of other tours and poker festivals around the world. GPI’s distribution network will bring poker content to both niche audiences and the mainstream public via media partnerships with Sporting News, Twitch, USA Today, and CineSport, among others.
Besides the unnamed private equity fund, other investors include Stanley Choi and Donald Tang of Hong Kong, John Gleasure of London, Xavier Niel of France, and the startup’s original investors. Mediarex Sports & Entertainment was founded in July 2012. Its Global Poker Index ranks 450,000 active players from 97 countries, and it tracks 270,000 poker competitions.