Why does snooker attract so many TV viewers?

by Ethan Harris

SNOOKER as a sport is mis-labelled as an action-deprived game that fails to attract viewing figures beyond a few million.

If so, why show it on the BBC?

The fact of the matter is that this is simply not true. Far beyond the slow-paced character the game has been made out to be, instead Snooker is an art form with masters of geometrical precision.

The final between Mark Selby and Ding Junhui in 2016 gathered a total global audience of over 300 million viewers, but when you break down just where the majority of those figures originated, it is easy to see just how the sport was able to break into figures of such a magnitude.

With Junhui being the first Asian man to ever reach the final of the World Snooker Championship, his run sparked a wave a followers from China, with 210 million viewers tuning in to see the event, with 45 million of those views being for the final day alone.

In comparison, the UK viewings were pitiful in comparison, with figures ranging around the 3.9 million mark, far below the heyday of Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis, whom managed to gather a UK television audience of 18.5 million back in 1985.

With the rise of Asian players within the world of Snooker, it is easy to see why the sport has become so popular within China and other Asian countries, but it is not the only factor in why the sport is still a TV ratings hit.

In fact, the characters of the sport are still a huge influence on its popularity. Perhaps now synonymous with the sport itself, Ronnie O’ Sullivan has a huge impact on the viewing figures.

Dragging the more casual fan in with an emotive style of play, O’ Sullivan brings an excitement to crowds that very few others can replicate, with his psychological battle between each frame intriguing the viewer, lost in a puzzle that only O‘ Sullivan can appear to solve.

Perhaps the platform that catapulted the sport into mainstream viewership, the series Pot Black also played a major role in just how far the sport was able to grow, with O’ Sullivan himself appearing on a junior version of the show in 1991, winning the tournament in that same year.

A television series of one-off tournaments that carried no rankings, it was the ultimate test of fast paced skills that popularised the modern game.

Last airing in 2007, players have been calling for a similar adaptation into today’s game. The implementation of a “shot clock” to increase the pace being argued over; as it is still a sport that requires large periods of sitting for participants, but would undoubtedly intrigue the more casual viewer ten-fold.

Ultimately snooker is still a sport that attains large viewership, but with figures in the UK falling far below par of the 1985 final, perhaps it is time to introduce a fast paced setting once more.

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