Why the UK Strongman TV scheduling is suffocating its own popularity

Strongman in the past few years has exploded in popularity. With more and more strongmen creating YouTube channels and producing content, it only continues to grow. Whether its a fascination with the sheer amount they eat or marvelling at the mammoth training schedules they follow, it’s clear to see that Strongman is fully blossoming as a popular mainstay sport.

Talking of YouTube lets have a look at some of the names out there :

  • Brian Shaw – 1.62 million subscribers
  • Eddie Hall – 1.85 million subscribers
  • Robert Oberst – 308 thousand subscribers
  • Thor Bjornsson – 541 thousand subscribers
  • Martins Licis – 184 thousand subscribers
  • The Stoltman Brothers – 147 thousand subscribers

These are just a few of the most prominent strongman channels out there. The numbers don’t lie – Strongmen, typically, are very likeable and enjoyable to watch people. With the YouTube popularity comes an interest in the sport. With this comes new fans who want to follow the competitions and obviously the crown jewel of strongman – World’s Strongest Man.

However, for a new fan it would probably be quite confusing when you see all of your favourite Strongmen posting on social media platforms about a competition that you can’t seem to find anywhere on TV. This is because we are at a point in time where the World’s Strongest Man is shown on UK television so far after the actual competition that it’s a formality that no one seems to keep it a secret and not spoil it. It is now the norm for a UK fan to watch the competition knowing full well who won. You may say to avoid social media but it is still very hard to avoid the results – especially when even an unsuspecting football commentator seemed to completely out the winner mid-match during the European Championships!

WSM is mainly carried out in about June time and yet we in the UK don’t get to see this until December of that year. This is the same with the Britain’s and UK’s Strongest Man competitions as well as Europe’s. These are 4 huge competitions spread over the year that are squeezed into a compact viewing time around Christmas. Often, the programme names are similar and indistinguishable too. That’s a small detail that makes it all more confusing for fans to view the content.

I wouldn’t be surprised if new fans lost a lot of interest in watching the official programming due to the mishandling of a brilliant TV property.

I understand the complications with showing the event live on television. It’s a long competition that has some lengthy rest periods for athletes at times. However, there needs to be two options available to fans.

Option 1 :

  • The competitions should still be streamed live and fans free to dip in and out if they wish. What would be the problem in having punditry in-between set ups? There’s enough wealth of knowledge of strongmen that have done work for the programming such as Terry Hollands, Bill Kazmaier and Eddie Hall. With the right presenter in place it would work perfectly.
  • Having been to Britain’s Strongest Man in early 2020 I can say it was a very enjoyable evening with little interlude between everything.

Option 2 :

  • For those not wanting to watch live, the competition should be edited and shown in a final format on TV within a week minimum. This would provide enough time for results to be kept quiet and then allow the winner a good amount of the year to do press opportunities and so on.

With some competitions being across days such as WSM. Live streaming may become difficult but I’m sure fans would much rather be given a slightly unpolished product live, than wait for months and months to even get a glimpse. Many fans were left bemused that the live stream option that was given at WSM 2020 due to the pandemic was not then replicated this year, showing clear desire for this.

I’m not living in an idyllic world either. Strongman should certainly charge PPV fees to watch the product live and many fans wouldn’t even question this.

Even if these options are slightly flawed, there are better solutions than the UK strongman TV scheduling is currently providing. Simply, the product needs to be given to a TV channel that shows more care and attention to this product. Whilst Channel 5 in Britain do provide a fairly good end product mainly down to the brilliant presenting of James Richardson and excellent commentary by Colin Bryce and Danny Wallace, it is far too late in the year.

Provide the same shows, spread throughout the year within a week of the live competition and give it enough of an advertising push to make sure the casual fans know when it is being shown.

If they do this then the sport will be able reach new heights. Better exposure. Better sponsors. More prize money for athletes.

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