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The vast changes made to the broadcast of the World Poker Tour during its ninth season are apparently paying off. According to a WPT press release this week, FSN’s coverage of the popular program has increased in ratings by 35 percent over last season, with an average number of weekly viewers at 669,000. The WPT is now the top-rated program on the network.
WPT CEO Steve Heller and President Adam Pliska don’t feel that it’s an aberration, either. The two set out to make drastic changes to the show’s format and cast in Season IX, infusing “YES” programming (younger, edgier, sexier elements) into the series. The result? A show that appeals to every poker demographic.
“WPT is having a banner year on FSN. This season is on pace to be our most-watched ever,” said FSN VP of Programming David Sussin.
The show has instilled several new enhancements, including a new anchor in Kimberly Lansing and an on-air segment called the “Raw Deal” with brash poker pro Tony Dunst, who pulls no punches in dissecting the play at the final table. Dunst beat out more than a thousand hopefuls during an intense audition process to earn the coveted position. He told Poker News Daily, “I was given an opportunity to get a foothold on the business side of poker and it combines everything I’m good at.”
The WPT has also added a handful of poker “ambassadors” in the Royal Flush Girls, who include 2010 Maxim Hometown Hottie of the Year Melanie Iglesias, 2007 Miss Kentucky USA Michelle Banzer, “FHM Singapore” cover girl Sunisa Kim, and Formula Drift car builder Melyssa Grace. The striking ladies appear in every episode and brighten up the atmosphere of the tense final table arena.
But not everything has changed. The faces of the WPT, commentators Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, returned for their ninth season in the booth to the delight of the show’s following. And viewers will get to witness history this season as Sexton reached a WPT final table for the first time ever, opening up a guest appearance in the commentary booth for the show.
Season IX of the WPT on FSN is only halfway done, as the network will air eight more episodes over the next eight Sunday nights (8 and 11 p.m.). Among the tournaments yet to air include the Hollywood Poker Open, Seminole Hard Rock Showdown, Bay 101 Shooting Star, and the $25,000 WPT World Championship at Bellagio.
In addition, there will be special coverage of the inaugural World Poker Tour Super High Roller, in which 29 of the game’s top pros bought in for $100,000, the highest buy-in event in U.S. history. The final table included poker legends such as Eric Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, and Erick Lindgren, as well as online superstars Justin Bonomo and Vivek Rajkumar.
Here’s a look at the remaining WPT schedule on FSN:
June 19th: Bay 101 Shooting Star
June 26th: Bay 101 Shooting Star
July 3rd: Hollywood Poker Open
July 10th: Hollywood Poker Open
July 17th: Seminole Hard Rock
July 24th: Seminole Hard Rock
July 31st: WPT Championship
August 7th: WPT Championship
The ninth season of the WPT will air again from Episode 1 beginning on August 14, 2011. Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest coverage from the World Poker Tour. (Credit: Poker News Daily)
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