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Sky Poker's New WTF Anti-Marketing Campaign - Ban YouTube Content!

Logo of Sky Poker

In today's world of digital marketing and social media, many businesses are doing everything in their power to promote their brands across as many online venues as possible. However, Sky Poker seems to be tacking in another direction as the company has sent a cease and desist email to popular Twitch.tv and YouTube streamer RegiTime Poker, whose real name is Paul, asking him to stop showcasing the poker site in his videos.

Email Sent to Paul

Icon for Email

We reached out to Paul to get a first-hand account of his interactions with Sky Poker, and he was happy enough to oblige us. The hero of our story has been making videos showing his gameplay at Sky for several years now, so it came as a surprise when he received the following email on July 18, 2018:

Email From Sky Poker to PaulThe Peremptory Message Drafted by Sky to Paul

The message sent to Paul was not composed by a higher-up at the firm but rather by “Andrew,” a member of the Customer Care Team. It requested that Paul stop posting videos featuring Sky Poker games. Sky claimed that it wished to prevent its customers' screen names from being shown, implying that such behavior could cause users to not “enjoy playing Sky Poker.”

The firm also made reference to language in its terms and conditions that bars individuals from using its intellectual property:

Intellectual Property

23.1 All intellectual property rights in our websites and mobile and tablet applications and all material and/or content made available on the Services (including but not limited to rights in the products and services offered, all code, software, animations, graphics, music, sound, photographs, video content or text, and the selection and arrangement thereof) or otherwise by us shall remain at all times our property or the property of our third party licensors.

23.2 The names, images and logos identifying us, our partners or third parties and our/their products and services contained in our websites and mobile and tablet applications are proprietary marks and may not be reproduced or otherwise used without express permission.

23.3 Nothing contained in these Terms and Conditions shall be construed as conferring by implication any licence or right to use any trademark, patent, design right or copyright that belongs to us or any third party.

Sky Poker then stated that the company was within its rights to close Paul's account before concluding ominously: “I hope that we do not need to do that.”

Follow-up

Old-school Telephone

As you might imagine, Paul was less than pleased with the contents of the email that Sky sent to him. He replied to the email on June 20 and awaited a response. Unfortunately, no such response arrived for three days. Worried that the email was a fake sent by someone trying to scam him somehow, Paul decided to call the company. Sky confirmed that the email was legitimate but failed to provide any additional insight into the situation.

Paul then received another email inviting him to arrange a call with an “admin.” He thought that he might get some real answers, and he therefore set up a session with “Andrew.” However, the information provided by Andrew seemed to be standard-issue corporate boilerplate, and there were several queries that Paul made for which the answers given were unhelpful. Moreover, Andrew seemed to be under the impression that Paul was angling for a sweetheart affiliate deal with Sky, which Paul vehemently denies. Despite the overall unproductiveness of the conversation, Andrew was able to offer a few details on Sky's new policy:

  • It's not just Paul who is affected; everyone is now barred from showing Sky Poker tables on video
  • The new rules were instituted following a single complaint by a user that his screen name was shown on video
  • Paul was not asked to remove any of his existing content but rather to not showcase Sky's tables going forward

That phone call marked the conclusion of a nearly week-long process involving multiple emails and calls before Paul eventually received a somewhat satisfactory, although incomplete, explanation of what was going on. We expect better customer communication from a gaming company that was, after all, spun off the behemoth telco Sky plc founded by billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

Sky plc Founder Rupert MurdochRupert Murdoch, Billionaire Founder of Sky plc.

Actually, after rereading Andrew's initial email to Paul, we couldn't help but take out our red pen and make a few corrections. You can find our suggested edits here. We hope that we can assist Andrew and the rest of the customer-facing employees of Sky Poker in improving their communication skills.

About Paul's Channels

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Paul is a UK-based micro-stakes cash game grinder who plays mostly on Sky Poker but also at other rooms like 888poker and Unibet. He runs a YouTube channel called “RegiTime Poker” along with a Twitch.tv channel listed as “RegiTime.” He also has a personal website at www[dot]regitimepoker[dot]com and a Facebook Group “RegiTime Microstakes Poker Group.” Paul has produced vids for training site Grinderschool before and currently offers poker coaching through his website. Last but not least he is a prolific poster on public forums such as the /r/poker subreddit.

Paul's videos include live gameplay sessions, hand history reviews, and theoretical discussions of poker-related topics. They're geared mostly toward new and casual poker fans rather than experienced pros. Judging by the popularity and reach of his various endeavors, we estimate that Paul is responsible for enticing hundreds of new users into signing up for Sky Poker through watching his content. And like we said, these players are the bottom of the poker pyramid, the low stakes guys, the valuable recreational players who are the bread and butter of any poker room / gambling company.

RegiTime Poker Session at SkyStill Frame From One of Paul's YouTube Videos Showing Him Three-Tabling Sky

According to Paul, he hasn't made a dime directly from either his YouTube channel or his Twich.tv presence. He's doing it mostly for the love of the game. This is what makes Sky's demand that he change what he's doing so puzzling.

Paul Doesn't Mince Words

Two People Arguing

At first, many speculated that there was something specific about Paul's channels that drew the ire of Sky Poker. He's widely known for swearing on the air, and he sometimes insults the ability of his opponents. Others have argued that his explanations of adversaries' strategies and play styles have crossed the line by publicly sharing specific information on how certain people tend to play, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage versus the field.

Paul revealed to us that he received private messages from Sky forum admins about a year ago requesting that he tone down the swearing. It seems he has been under the watchful eye of Sky Poker personnel for quite some time now.

Still, we note that the prohibition on showing videos of Sky Poker games extends to all video channels, not just Paul's. It could be the case, though, that his content was what sparked the firm to review its guidelines in the first place.

Reasons for the Prohibition

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A SkyPoker spokesperson revealed on the forums that the decision of taking the recent actions against content creators was out of the poker division's hands. Instead, it was handed down by the firm's legal and compliance divisions. They are concerned about running afoul of the rules of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission.

Logo of the UK Gambling Commission

Similar concerns were responsible for Sky's termination of its U.K. affiliates program in September 2017. After implementing tougher gaming regulations, the UKGC ruled that gambling sites were ultimately responsible for the promotional materials distributed by affiliates. The Advertising Standards Authority meanwhile judged that certain affiliate pages directing visitors to join up at Sky were in violation of the rules. Unable to effectively police their affiliates, Sky Betting and Gaming opted to shutter its affiliate system altogether. Furthermore, Sky came under the fire of the UKGC in March 2018 for violations of self-exclusion regulations for problem gamers, and the organization had to pay a £1 million penalty.

If keeping tabs on rogue affiliates is tough, then one can only imagine how difficult it would be to monitor what video streamers are up to. Moreover, the business is already on the radar of the UKGC for its self-exclusion missteps. There haven't been any reports of the UKGC or ASA getting up in arms about independently produced streaming videos, but in Sky Betting and Gaming's case, it's probably a matter of once bitten, twice shy.

The Sky rep did hint that the policy proscribing the use of the company's intellectual property for live streaming purposes could be changed. The possibility is open that the organization might pursue formal contract agreements with carefully vetted content creators who then would have to abide by whatever rules Sky lays down.

ProfRB's Opinion

Old-Style Pen

We believe that the management of Sky is acting in an overly cautious way by preventing people from broadcasting the game action. Gone are the days of the mid-2000s poker boom, when it seemed everyone and his dog was signing up to play poker, and in the current climate, internet card rooms have to use whatever platforms are available when it comes to attracting new clients.

This is particularly true of smaller, niche organizations like Sky Poker. According to industry traffic-tracking resource GameIntel, Sky Poker has 190 simultaneously active cash game players on average. This is just a fraction of the player liquidity at major sites, like 888poker, PartyPoker, the PaiWangLuo Network, and the Winning Poker Network. Even some online poker rooms that transact in just a single country, like the Swedish Svenska Spel and Indian poker and rummy site Adda52, boast higher traffic levels than Sky Poker. We thus feel that it's a bizarre and ultimately counterproductive move for Sky to restrict coverage of its games.

Player Volume Numbers for UK-Serving Internet Poker SitesThough There Are a Few Tinier Rooms, Sky Is a Pretty Small Site Compared to Most Peers in the U.K. Market

Indeed, one could argue that it was precisely video feeds of its card games that led Sky Poker to achieve its current position of moderate success. You see, Sky used to have a dedicated TV channel that showed hands from its cash game tables. Given Sky's undoubted experience in this medium, it's inexplicable that it should take such a hard stance against online video broadcasts of its games.

Other Sites not so Scared

We could perhaps forgive Sky management's heavy-handed approach in this matter if poker streaming were some newfangled or unknown phenomenon of dubious utility. This is, however, not the case at all.

There are many internet poker organizations that happily encourage players to produce videos highlighting their tables. For instance, Americas Cardroom promotes its own team of streamers, called ACR Stormers, and the site assists them in growing their channels with marketing materials, ticket giveaways, and other promotions. Meanwhile, PokerStars has a sponsored Twitch team headlined by WSOP bracelet winner, poker coach, and video trainer Jason “jcarver” Somerville. 'Stars has even built a studio in Las Vegas for the purpose of Twitch streaming.

Registration Form for ACR Stormers ProgramAnyone Can Apply for Membership in the ACR Stormers

Possible Behind-the-Scenes Motives?

Actually, now that we mention PokerStars, this brings up another possible motivation for Sky's clampdown against poker streamers. Stars Group, the parent corporation of PokerStars, has signed a deal to acquire Sky Betting and Gaming for $4.7 billion. Now that the two enterprises are merging into one, perhaps management wishes to direct all poker traffic to PokerStars and stop pushing the Sky Poker brand? This would certainly be a compelling argument for why Sky seems to be shooting itself in the foot over this video streaming issue.

If this is in fact the logic behind Sky's decision, then it's treading on thin ice indeed. Regulatory concerns over the mammoth acquisition deal have already been raised by the Competition and Markets Authority. This governmental watchdog agency is worried about the potential monopolistic effects of combining the two entities into one. It has ordered both companies to remain separate for now and to continue operating as independent businesses. In the event that Sky's diktats to streamers are found to be the result of an accord with the Stars Group, then both parties could run afoul of the directives of the CMA.

CMA Halts PokerStars/Sky Merger

This is just speculation on our part. We can't really say for sure that PokerStars and Sky are acting in concert in this case, and it would be out of character for Sky, given its history of being extra-prudent in its desire to avoid the intervention of regulatory bodies.

Reactions of Other Sky Players

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Overall, the player community has been very supportive of RegiTime Poker and thinks that Sky has made a serious mistake. Here are a couple of examples of the sentiments expressed on the Sky forums where Paul goes by the username “The--Don”:

Post Supportive of RegiTime Poker
Post in Favor of Paul

Of course, not everybody feels the same way. Paul doesn't exactly pull his punches when chatting about his opponents, which is probably why some commentators have reacted negatively, like this one:

User Agrees With Sky's Decision

 

Paul's Future Plans

Future Right Arrow

Although Paul is disappointed by the position taken by Sky Poker, he will still continue to develop video content on his channels. He won't be able to directly expose player names on the Sky tables anymore, but he is able to discuss hands he has previously played by anonymizing his opponents' names and using outside hand history replayers. Of course, he can continue to show live play in the games at other internet poker sites that aren't averse to having their rooms advertised for free on YouTube and Twitch.

Paul had the following to say about the recent Sky Poker news:

I have had an account with Sky Poker since 2006 when I was first attracted to their site after seeing their TV show showing real time action from their tables. I find the reasoning behind their decision to effectively ban me from making videos showing their intellectual content to be ludicrous and hypocritical given how they used similar content to grow their business. Sky are clearly out of line with other poker sites who actually recruit players to showcase their games, and I would hope that at some point in the future they reconsider their position.

 

ProfRB Wants Streamers!

Unlike the head honchos at Sky Poker, we here at ProfRB appreciate the advantages that video broadcasters can bring to an online site. In fact, we're looking for streamers to represent us while playing poker on YouTube and Twitch. Each deal is unique, but some of the perks we can offer may include advertising fees, higher rakeback, and freerolls for your subscribers. If you're interested in becoming a Professional Rakeback sponsored streamer, then contact us today to discuss your plans.