FIS presidential hopeful Eliasch wants TV-friendly skiing formats

Johan Eliasch, a candidate for the International Ski Federation (FIS) presidency, has called for the sport to introduce more formats that are suited for television in order to drive higher audiences and media-rights revenues.

Eliasch, the chief executive of sportswear company Head, is expected to be up against Swiss-Ski president Urs Lehmann, FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis, Swedish FIS board member Mats Arjes and Italian Winter Sports Federation (FISI) president Flavio Roda in the race to success the incumbent Gian-Franco Kasper.

Eliasch told Austria’s Kleine Zeitung: “We need to find better and more TV-friendly formats.

“Nordic combined [skiing] is difficult to broadcast on TV. In my opinion a parallel slalom is much more suited to getting people to watch.

“The more entertaining it becomes, the more you watch and the more you watch, the more you generate from TV rights. The more money we get, the more we can invest.”

Eliasch, whose net worth is around €2.6bn ($2.8bn) and has said he would forego the FIS presidential salary of around €500,000 per year, said that delivering “better and more” data for television viewers could be one solution to make the broadcast more interactive for viewers.

Asked what he wanted to introduce if he became FIS president, he replied: “Entertainment, marketing, new formats, more global reach – all initiatives that should generate more money, which in turn will be invested in sport and its development, its growth. It must be possible that skiing is watched on TV by more people around the world.”

The Infront agency holds the global broadcast and sponsorship rights to the FIS Alpine and Nordic World Championships until 2025. The agency also has deals in place with most major skiing federations for international broadcast rights to their FIS World Cup events. However, Swiss-Ski and the Austrian Ski Federation (ÖSV) have deals in place with the European Broadcasting Union and the IMG agency, respectively.

As an example of skiing’s appeal in countries where there are not many available slopes, Eliasch flagged up the sport’s popularity in the UK and the ‘Ski Sunday’ programme on public broadcaster the BBC, which he described as “at one time very popular”.

The FIS announced in November that Kasper would step down in May after 22 years in the job. Kasper is set to stay on longer than first anticipated after the FIS was forced to postpone next month’s Congress meeting in Thailand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.