ITV will broadcast its first major ranking world snooker event for 20 years when it covers the Haikou World Open in China from February 25-March 3.
Featuring many of the sport’s biggest names, current champion Mark Allen will be defending his title against the likes of world number one Judd Trump, John Higgins, Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and 2010 World Open winner Neil Robertson.
The action takes place on Hainan Island and there is a top prize of £85,000 up for grabs. ITV4 and British Eurosport will have extensive coverage of the event throughout the week.
Formerly staged in the UK as the LG Cup and Grand Prix, this is the second year the tournament has been staged at the Hainan International Exhibition Center, in a land where the sport’s popularity is rapidly increasing.
With snooker clubs now appearing all over Beijing and a big increase in coverage on Chinese TV, last year’s announcement that the venue is to host the event for the next three years can only help to increase interest still further.
Although this is a tournament for professionals, amateurs can take part in the opening Wild Card round after negotiating a three-match qualifying process.
All matches are the best of nine frames, increasing to eleven for the semi-finals and nineteen for the final.
Last year’s title was won in dominating fashion by Mark Allen, who defeated Stephen Lee, himself a previous World Open winner, with surprising ease in the final by 10 frames to one.
Allen will have to be at his best as he looks to retain his title, with the likes of recent Welsh Open winner Stephen Maguire, this year’s German Masters champion Ali Carter, world number one Judd Trump and snooker legend John Higgins looking to take it off him.
Neil Robertson will also be looking to make up for his disappointing start to his campaign, as he is still yet to win a ranking tournament this season, losing out in the UK Championships to Mark Selby, and the International Championship to Judd Trump.
Other big names include German Masters runner-up Marco Fu, world number four Shaun Murphy and former World and UK Champion Peter Ebdon.
ITV4 will screen all the action from the 2013 Haikou World Open with up to nine hours of continuous coverage each day, starting at 6.10am and finishing at 3pm, and also in high-definition on ITV4 HD.
Jill Douglas will present ITV4’s live coverage throughout the week, with commentary and analsysis from Clive Everton, Neal Foulds and Peter Drury.
The tournament marks the return to ranking event snooker for ITV for the first time in 20 years, since the channel covered the 1993 British Open.
In the intervening years, ITV has shown a variety of invitation tournaments, including the Champions Cup and Nations Cup between 1999 and 2001, as well as more recently Power Snooker, with two tournaments broadcast on ITV4 since 2010.
Eurosport commentator and snooker journalist Dave Hendon broke the news on Twitter shortly before the tournament.
Commenting on his Snooker Scene blog, Hendon comments: “ITV broadcast many hours of snooker during the boom years of the 1980s and achieved huge ratings but they eventually ran into serious scheduling problems. Their portfolio gradually shrunk from four tournaments to two and then none at all.
“ITV4 already screens a range of sport, from football to cricket, tennis and darts, and is a free to air channel available on all platforms so the tournament will reach a large potential audience in the UK.
“Snooker is a welcome addition to the line-up, and by broadcasting a full ranking event they are making a much greater commitment.
“It would be safe to assume that, if all goes well, ITV will look to show even more in the future.”
The tournament also has the distinction of being the first China-based snooker event to be broadcast on UK terrestrial television.
Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said: “We are delighted to bring to our viewers comprehensive coverage of such a key event in the snooker calendar, which adds another dimension to ITV4’s sports portfolio.”
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are developing an increasingly competitive marketplace in terms of broadcast of our events so it’s a fantastic step forward for ITV to provide extensive live coverage of a world ranking event. We’re delighted to be working with the ITV team.
“The Haikou World Open is a superb event with a top prize of £85,000 and deserves to be brought to a wider audience with free to air broadcast in the UK. We are a rapidly growing global sport and there is a high demand among fans.”
British Eurosport will also cover the event live and in high-definition across both of its channels with commentary from Dave Hendon, Joe Johnson, Mike Hallett and Mike Smith.
Extended highlights of each day’s play will be shown each evening, plus fans can watch live streaming via Eurosport Player.
CLICK HERE for full British Eurosport schedule.
Tournament Draw Match Schedule Monday 25th February Round 1 / Wild Card Round LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4 Tuesday 26th February Round 1 LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4 Wednesday 27th February Round 1 LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4 Thursday 28th February Round 2 LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4 Friday 1st March Quarter Finals – Best of 9 frames LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4 Afternoon Session (6.30am start) Neil Robertson (AUS) 5-3 Mark Selby (ENG) Judd Trump (ENG) 3-5 Matthew Stevens (WAL) Evening Session (11.30am start) Ding Junhui (CHN) 0-5 John Higgins (SCO) Mark Allen (NIR) 5-1 Ricky Walden (ENG) Saturday 2nd March Semi Finals – Best of 11 frames LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4 Afternoon Session (6.30am start) Matthew Stevens (WAL) v Neil Robertson (AUS) Evening Session (11.30am start) Mark Allen (NIR) v John Higgins (SCO) Sunday 3rd March Haikou World Open Final 2013 – Best of 19 frames LIVE: 6.10am-3.00pm – ITV4