Pot Black was a UK television snooker tournament that is the single reason for the popularity of the modern game.
In the late 1960s the BBC started broadcasting in colour, and were looking for programmes that could exploit this new technology. The game of snooker, with its multi-coloured balls, was suggested. The format of a knockout tournament, with weekly single-frame matches, was devised by BBC Birmingham producer Philip Lewis, and the programme first aired on July 23, 1969, on BBC2, presented by Alan Weeks, with match commentary by Ted Lowe. The first tournament was won by Ray Reardon.
The success of Pot Black was immediate and phenomenal, and it became the second most popular programme on BBC2.
Pot Black ran from 1969 to 1986, by which time professional snooker, with its long matches, had become so popular that the single-frame matches that Pot Black offered were no longer needed, since the game had now established a fan base. There was a single "time-frame" tournament in 1991. A junior version, called Junior Pot Black, ran from 1981.
Pot Black's instantly recognisable theme tune was the ragtime classic Black And White Rag, composed by George Botsford and performed by Winifred Atwell.
It is often said that Pot Black is responsible for producing one of the most memorable British sports quotes. Legendary commentator "Whispering" Ted Lowe, aware that not all viewers had colour televisions, said "Steve is going for the pink ball - and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green.".
Pot Black featured all the top players of its time, among them many well-loved personalities such as Fred Davis, Ray Reardon, Graham Miles and Alex Higgins. Pot Black helped transform snooker from a minority sport with just a handful of professionals into one of the most popular sports in the UK, where every tournament is fiercely contested and the top players earn millions annually, but there is much nostalgia for the simpler, friendlier days of Pot Black.
A one-day Pot Black tournament was held on October 29, 2005, and broadcast on the BBC sports programme, Grandstand. The invitational event featured eight players, namely Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire, Matthew Stevens, Paul Hunter, John Higgins, Jimmy White and Shaun Murphy, with Matthew Stevens beating Shaun Murphy in the final. The tournament continued in 2006, and looks set to continue for future years in its new format. By 2006, the one-frame appeal was rekindled, because it was so different to anything else. The format was required again to offer something different.