FIS Sells World Cup TV Rights to Swiss Sports Marketing Specialist Infront

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Tommy Ford
Team USA race skier Tommy Ford at the FIS World Cup in Sölden, Austria. | Picture: US Ski Team Instagram Page

The International Ski & Snowboard Federation ‘FIS’ has sold the TV rights for the Alpine World Cup competitions to Infront Sports & Media. Infront is based in Zug, Switzerland, and has the marketing rights for several other sports competitions, such as the National Basketball Association (‘NBA’), the International Soccer Federation (‘FIFA’) or the International Ice Hockey Federation (‘IIHF’). The marketing agreement will be in effect from the 26/27 season and cover eight seasons up to and including the 33/34 season.

Infront is the world’s second largest full-service sports marketing company in the world and is spearheaded by Philippe Blatter, nephew of disgraced FIFA president Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter.

Infront was threatening to sue FIS last year as the new FIS president Johan Eliasch was trying to centralize TV rights within FIS, instead of going through the experienced third party agent. Infront had long-term and exclusive contracts for media rights for several ski races, including FIS World Cup events, that were running until the 25/26 season and some even until the 30/31 season. At the end of 2021, Eliasch informed Infront, as well as some of the company’s contractual partners, that they did not hold the rights anymore and were not allowing Infront to on-sell these TV rights. This lead the Swiss marketing company to launch legal proceedings against FIS. The new agreement puts the dispute to rest.

FIS Logo. | Picture: FIS Website

Under the new agreement Infront will hold individual rights deals with all national associations except the Austrian Ski Association (ÖSV), which has its own deals with Eurovision Sport, the sports arm of the European Broadcasting Union, and international sports and marketing agency IMG.

The terms of the new marketing agreement ensure:

  • Minimum compensation of more than €100 million (USD 110 million) above current terms
  • Commission-based agency agreement with a minimum sales guarantee of more than €600 million (USD 662 million)
  • FIS in full control over the sales process
  • Infront to provide exclusive marketing implementation and international media operations services

Immediate rights and access to digital content, fundamentally changing FIS’ ability to maximise its social media footprint:

  • Free-of-charge provision of archive footage and highlights
  • Extensive rights to photography, behind-the-scenes coverage, course coverage, and the production of documentaries, television series, motion pictures, or similar productions
  • Free of charge OTT streaming for dark markets

FIS president Eliasch has been seeking to centralize TV rights since the start of his presidency. Many national ski associations however were reportedly blindsided by the announcement, as it was not discussed during council meetings. Urs Lehmann, who is President of the Swiss Ski association and on the FIS council, said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper: “It was neither discussed in the last council meeting nor mentioned in the FIS executive communication. It’s once again about the way this decision was made and communicated.”

Eliasch has a history of clashing with national ski associations and the Swedish business magnate has faced a lot of criticizm since the start of his presidency.

“I was elected as the president of FIS with a mandate for change. Wherever I see areas to improve our sport I will do so, even if it is not easy. Based on our statute changes in 2021 passed by 97.3% of our members, we have pressed on with the conviction that centralising our media rights management will be good for our athletes, our member federations, and for all around the world who are passionate about snow sports.”
Johan Eliasch, FIS President

Johan Eliasch
FIS CEO Johan Eliasch. | Picture: FIS Ski Website

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