Tech Trumps Content: How Color TV Popularized Snooker


Just as 3D broadcasts, Smell-O-Vision, and the digital lollipop challenge viewers to interact with movies and TV in ultra-sensory ways, the advent of color television alone could be added to this list as a medium that intrigued many, regardless of the content being shown. With technological advancements regularly occurring throughout TV's history, many of these concepts almost overshadow the program itself. Fortunately, however, color television became well-adapted-to, albeit in a way that is unfamiliar to most people.

As color television was just beginning to bloom across the globe in the 1950s and 1960s, countries and broadcast systems were faced with a unique challenge: finding programming that would integrate well with this new technology that we now take for granted. The idea of color television alone was novel, and although exciting, producers were faced with the task of pairing content and technology in order to draw viewers in and allow them to adapt to the new color transmissions.

In the United Kingdom, one of the strongest pushes to bring color-dependent viewing to the general public was through the televising of the game of snooker. Similar to the game of pool, snooker is a pocket billiards game in which the object is to score the highest number of points by pocketing, or potting, balls in a pre-defined sequence. This sequence of potting order is determined by the colors of the balls, and as such, was not well-perceived by the TV audience in a black-and-white format prior to the development of color television, since it was difficult to discern the color differences of the balls.

However, when broadcast in color for the first time, on July 23, 1969, on BBC2, a new program called Pot Black effectively drew viewers in based solely on the vibrant colors of the Kelly green baize playing surface and the multi-colored phenolic resin balls. Contributing to the bright colors inherent in the game, the studio environment and bright lighting made the game of snooker rise in popularity, based on visual aesthetics that were, for the first time, captured in their true innate beauty.

Visualizing games and sports in the most realistic, hyper-real colors along with a desire to understand the content and intricacies of complex sequences and rules tweaks one's desire to be visually startled. Similar in approach today to the implementation of high definition, ultra-high definition, 3D, and so on, as a global culture we strive to become immersed in content that is as much, if not more, visually appealing than conceptually challenging. As humble as it seems in retrospect, it’s almost jarring to know that something as seemingly simple as color can bring as much interest to a game as the game itself.