By Nathan Carroll, Rakeback.com Staff Writer
Earlier this week, the World Poker Tour (WPT) and Fox Sports Net (FSN) announced a three year deal for distribution and promotion of seasons 9, 10, and 11 of the popular World Poker Tour television program. The deal gives WPT coveted prime time television slots at 8 P.M. and 11 P.M. on Sunday nights for premieres, as well as timeslots throughout the week for rerunning episodes. The deal also covers extensive advertising on FSN to promote the program.
News of this agreement comes on the heels of a press conference earlier in the summer to announce changes to the tour's management and program format. At that event, held in Las Vegas on July 10th, CEO Steve Heller asserted that the WPT's upcoming 9th season would "put more show in the show, more event in the event." He promised that the new shows would be faster-paced and edgier than any previous incarnation of the WPT.
For their part, FSN is pleased with the relationship. Vice president of programming, David Sussin, explains, "Our network has long been a showcase for the best poker on television, and we are very happy WPT will continue that tradition." He also states that FSN is fully behind all of the recent changes to WPT programming, saying in a statement that the tour "will only grow stronger with the tremendous innovations they are bringing to the show in the new season."
The 9th season will introduce an anchor position to act as a central hub to the show. Heller explained that the new role will be analogous to Bob Costas at the Olympics. To fill those shoes, WPT has brought back a fan favorite that previously served as hostess during the 2007 season: Kimberly Lansing. In addition to appearing on air as the anchor, Lansing will interview players and provide content for the newly redesigned WPT website.
Another new addition to the WPT lineup starting in season 9 will be the Royal Flush Girls. These six lovely ladies will appear on set and on air to act as ambassadors. Here's a video shot at that July press conference that introduces the girls.
Vince Van Patten and Mike Sexton will both be returning to provide entertaining and insightful commentary as they have in the past.
The one detail still left to be resolved is the role of the "brash" new analyst, who will host a recurring segment called "The Raw Deal." Given the number of brash personalities in the poker world, there are numerous candidates who could potentially fill this role. One safe choice would be professional commentator Ali Nejad. As the announcer for NBC's Poker After Dark, Nejad has already established himself as a popular on air personality and moonlighting with the WPT could resonate with fans of televised poker in a way that would be beneficial to both networks. The WPT could also could a slightly different route and select a competent and outspoken player well-known by the internet poker community. Someone like Shaun Deeb or Tony "Bond18" Dunst could draw in the online poker crowd while still appealing to the average television viewer.
The WPT season 9 circuit kicked off in May of this year, with a 10,000 Euro tournament at the Aviation Club de France in Paris. The season's television coverage will begin in January 2011.
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