Snooker will return to ITV for the first time in nine years with a new event to be announced today.
I will post details of Power Snooker after the official launch - happening right now and attended by Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hearn.
ITV’s last involvement in snooker ended in 2001 with the third and final staging of the Champions Cup. They also screened the Nations Cup in this period.
Prior to this the ITV network broadcast four tournaments a season during the boom years of the 1980s: the International, World Doubles (later the World Matchplay), Mercantile Classic and British Open.
These latter two tournaments had best of 25 frame finals played over Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon.
The climaxes to these finals frequently drew high audiences, several of which were in excess of ten million.
Then two things happened which heralded the beginning of the end of snooker on ITV.
They used to share coverage with Channel 4 but when Michael Grade arrived as chief executive of C4 in 1987 he declared he wanted ‘a channel for people who don’t like snooker.’
In attempting to make the channel unique, this was perfectly fair enough but it meant ITV had to try and find the hours to properly show their events, not easy in the days before digital with so many other programmes competing for space.
Then in 1988 ITV won the rights to show a live first division football match every Sunday afternoon, eating up the slot traditionally taken by snooker.
ITV gradually scaled down to three tournaments, then two and then finally none at all.
The broadcasting landscape has changed, though. ITV now has four channels with ITV4 showing several hours of sport, particularly PDC darts – also headed by Hearn, football, boxing, tennis, motor sport and, currently, the Tour de France.
ITV4 will show eight hours live coverage of the new event, which will be held over a single day.
As I say, I will post details after it has been officially launched. I suspect it will attract a fair amount of comment as it involves changes to the standard rules.
The good news, though, is that ITV are back on board which must be a good sign going forward, particularly as Sky Sports are dipping their toes into the water with World Snooker once again after seven years with their new Shootout.