Barry Hearn was one of the youngest people ever to become a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
But Barry Hearn was from east London.
So that added something else to his ability with numbers.
Call it creativity, call it predatory thinking, call it good old-fashioned street smarts.
He knew the numbers told you the way things are.
They didn’t tell you the way things could be.
So when Barry Hearn saw an opportunity, he didn’t just rely on the numbers.
For instance, a chain of snooker halls was going cheap, because snooker was a dying sport.
Barry Hearn bought all the halls.
In the seventies, television was changing to colour.
He was one of the first people to recognise what seems obvious now.
Colour would revolutionise sport.
Until that point all televised sport had been in black and white.
That made it hard to follow for ordinary people.
Barry Hearn realised that snooker was perfect for TV.
Because with colour, everyone could follow the game.
But the summer of 1976 was hot, no one wanted to play snooker.
So he announced a big competition, with a large cash prize and a trophy for the winner.
With the grand final in September.
Suddenly his halls were full in June, July, and August with people practicing for the tournament in September.
Barry Hearn learned you have to give people a reason to compete, a reason to care.
There has to be a winner and a loser.
He sold his snooker tournaments to the TV companies.
Then he decided he could sell boxing the same way.
It wasn’t about the skill of the sport, it was about the competition, having a reason to care.
He began creating and packaging big events to sell.
He did the same with golf.
Then he realised he could do the same with any sport.
No one wanted to watch a man simply throw a dart at a board.
But turn it into a sporting competition, with winners and losers, and he could package it and sell it.
With the advent of satellite and cable the need to fill TV airtime just increased.
He began to create sporting events around all sorts of pastimes that had never been considered spectator sports.
Bowling, rowing, fishing, even poker.
Simply by creating a knockout competition with winners and losers.
Ordinary people might not know anything about the skill involved, but everyone understood winning and losing.
Suddenly sports that no one cared about became watchable.
Because of the tension and the drama of competition.
You didn’t need to know the rules to get caught up in the tension.
And now Barry Hearn’s company sources forty thousand hours of TV globally each year.
Now it all seems obvious.
But it wasn’t obvious until Barry Hearn saw it.
As Bill Bernbach said “We’ve been studying the statistics for so long we forget that we can create the statistics”.