ITV has signed an exclusive three-year deal to screen the Power Snooker Masters until 2014.
The new deal builds on ITV4’s coverage of the inaugural tournament last year, and adds to the channel’s ever expanding sports portfolio, following recent deals to bring more Europa League football and French Open tennis to the channel.
Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan (above) heads an all-star cast for the 2011 event, which will take place in Manchester on November 19-20, and ITV4 will air extensive coverage throughout the weekend.
This year’s tournament has been expanded to two days and will feature the world’s top 16 players, including world champion John Higgins, 2010 Power Snooker finalist Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby.
Introduced in October 2010, snooker’s newest quick fire format was created in conjunction with renound sports promoters Frank Warren and Barry Hearn.
It varies greatly from the traditional form of the sport. The first experimental tournament was well received by fans, journalists and viewers.
Hearn told The Sun: “Just like cricket has evolved into a new game with Twenty20, snooker is evolving into Power Snooker – but it is not attempting to take over from the traditional version.
“This is where the glamour of a rock show meets quick-fire snooker. All the players are behind it. It is the most exciting development snooker has faced in years.
“We know it will be an outstanding success because of the pilot competition attracted a staggering half-a-million audience for ITV4 when it was up against X Factor.”
Matches last around 30 minutes, making it one of the fastest and toughest formats in the game, testing the player’s skills and nerve around the table.
“All the stars taking part will be under real pressure to deliver, because each game lasts half an hour before the shutter comes down and the winner is decided on points scored in that time – not frames won,” said Warren.
“The young sports audience of today appear to want their games in short, sharp bursts with plenty of quality thrown in. Power Snooker provides just that on all fronts.”
Players will be equipped with microphones, so fans inside the venue and television viewers can hear everything they say.
Supporters are encouraged to interact with the players by cheering great shots or jeering at deliberate slow play, creating a unique sporting atmosphere unlike anything that snooker has ever seen before.
“At The Crucible, you can hear a pin drop during tournaments. At Power Snooker, you will find it hard to hear yourself think. There is no hiding place,” Warren added.
ITV’s Power Snooker coverage will be produced by Endemol Sport, though they are not tied to the new agreement.
It marks another step in ITV4’s ambition to reposition the channel with a sporting focus in order to attract a young male audience.
Angela Jain, the director of ITV’s digital channels, confirmed her vision for its future at this year’s MediaGuardian Edinburgh TV Festival.
Jain mentioned that she had been in talks about sports rights with various bodies, including Hearn, who is chairman of World Snooker.
“We want to put sport higher in the mix so ITV4 can make more sense of what it is and its identity will be clearer for the audience,” said Jain.
ITV recently acquired the rights to screen French Open tennis, a renewal of their UEFA Europa League deal, and will complete a two-year extension to their current FA Cup and England internationals contract later this week.