Snooker’s commercial arm, World Snooker, has agreed a ten-year partnership with Rigour Media.
The long-term accord is part of snooker’s continual digital growth in China. Rigour Media will have the exclusive control of the sport’s audio-visual digital rights in the Asian country for all World Snooker events until 2027. Its subscribers will be able to watch tournaments through its Superstar Online service, as well as other sub-licensed platforms.
World Snooker and the sport’s governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), have worked closely with Rigour Media in recent years. Rigour is the training and technology partner at the WPBSA’s Beijing academy and it also provides the on-screen technology that tracks the position of balls on the table at all of World Snooker’s major professional tournaments.
The financial terms of the contract have not been revealed.
“We are delighted to sign this long-term agreement with Rigour and we look forward to working with their team for many years to come,” said Barry Hearn, chairman of World Snooker. “Snooker has grown in China at an astonishing rate in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down.
“We have capitalised on this expansion with more tournaments, more prize money for the players and more snooker to watch for fans, both on television and online.”
World Snooker recently announced a new agreement with China’s national broadcaster CCTV to televise snooker events, which also runs until 2027.
“These ten-year deals with CCTV and Rigour Media will allow us to continue our long-term strategy of developing and exploiting the vast popularity of snooker in China,” continued Hearn. “For the hundreds of millions of snooker fans in the country this is fantastic news as they will have more and more opportunities to watch the best players at the biggest tournaments.”
China is snooker’s largest broadcast market with a record 210 million fans reported to have watched Ding Junhui’s 2016 World Championship final appearance at The Crucible. The Chinese potter lost 18-14 to England’s world number one Mark Selby.
Barry Hearn predicts that by the next decade half of the world's top 16 players will come from China. Including the aforementioned world number four Ding, China currently has three players in the world's top 16, with three-time ranking event winner Marco Fu fifth and the charismatic Liang Wenbo 12th in the global rankings.