SR Staff Report
Oberhofen-Thunersee, Switzerland – FIS President Johan Eliasch is rethinking the future of international broadcast rights to FIS World Cup events, and it’s causing a stir.
Ahead of his reelection at next month’s FIS Congress, Eliasch is taking a cue from other global governing bodies like FIFA, PGA, Premier League Soccer, and others, to restructure and centralize international broadcast rights under FIS control, while at the same time dismantling the current piecemeal approach whereby each country’s governing body negotiates a deal with a third-party broker. At stake are the rights that include FIS World Cup events in Alpine and Nordic skiing, freestyle skiing, and snowboard competitions managed and overseen by each country’s national governing body.
The third-party broker, in this case, is the Swiss-based media conglomerate Infront Sports and Media “Infront”, which currently holds the international broadcast rights to FIS member organizations with one notable exception – Austria. In its present framework, each country’s National Governing Body (NGB) holds domestic broadcast rights to World Cup events, but for a fee sells the international broadcast rights to Infront. Infront, in turn, brokers the rights to a participating NGB on a contract-by-contract basis.
Eliasch is looking to restructure that arrangement by centralizing all FIS broadcast rights into a singular “Concorde Agreement”. Under such an agreement, an NGB will continue to hold domestic broadcast and media rights, but FIS would eliminate Infront and alternatively retain the international rights and in turn develop standardized arrangements with each NGB. Eliasch advocates that in addition to standardized, central agreements, financial proceeds from the contracts normally acquired by Infront would be redirected to the promotion of FIS sports, standardizing broadcasts across the countries, and investment in new broadcast technologies.
As reported last week by the Austrian news outlet Kleine Zeitung, the stir was caused earlier in the month when FIS issued a letter to the Austrian governing body Ski Austria to discontinue ongoing talks with Infront concerning their sale of international broadcast rights for the upcoming season. Similar letters were issued to German media outlets as they too were in discussions ahead of next season.
Hanging in the balance is the schedule for the 2022/23 Alpine season. In what seems like the proverbial chicken and egg question, it is unclear which will come first: a decision on assigning the season’s schedule to the NGB, or standardization and negotiation of the international broadcast rights first with assignment of the schedule to follow. What is known is that the FIS Congress will be meeting on May 25th and 26th, and the proposed Concorde Agreement will likely be high on the agenda.
This is an evolving story and will be updated as details emerge.