Interview with FIS TV Consultant Richard Bunn

FIS took the opportunity to sit down with its TV Consultant Richard Bunn who is providing advice and expertise in matters relating to TV and new media.

Could you tell us a little about your background?

My career began in 1968 in commercial television in the United Kingdom. In 1978, I was invited to join the EBU (European Broadcast Union) in Geneva. At EBU I was responsible for negotiating major sports contracts on behalf of EBU members, including those with FIS. I also managed the World Consortium of Broadcasting Unions for the Football World Cups from 1990 to 1998 and was the man behind the idea of creating a pan-European sports channel which became Eurosport.

My first contact with FIS was when I joined EBU in 1978 and negotiated with Gian Franco Kasper sitting on the other side of the table. My consultancy with FIS started at the beginning of 2001.

What are the major topics on your agenda at present?

The world of electronic media has changed dramatically in recent years and the methods of consuming digital product are constantly changing. Keeping up with these trends and identifying potential opportunities is of vital importance to maintaining the position of FIS in the media market. This means looking at the development of exploiting rights, new ways of producing content as well as considering new commercial opportunities.

Could you explain the current TV rights situation of FIS?

FIS is the owner of all rights on World Championships and we have negotiated, or are soon to negotiate, the sale of these rights with different partners. Currently, the Alpine, Nordic, Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships have been acquired by Infront and the Ski Flying World Championships by EBU.

The rights on the World Cups are with the National Ski Associations in which the events take place, and the rights have been sold in many cases to Infront, with EBU owning those of Austria, Switzerland and Romania.

How has TV coverage and viewership interest in the FIS sports developed over the past 5-10 years? What are some of the strengths and weaknesses?

The number of broadcasters showing snow sports has remained essentially constant, but the viewership is getting older. There is no common interest for the different FIS disciplines in all disciplines; for example Alpine Skiing is a vital element of TV scheduling in Austria and Switzerland, whereas Cross-Country Skiing is the national sport in Norway and Sweden and Ski Jumping is the number one televised sport in Poland. By definition, snow sports are most attractive in countries where there is snow and the sports are part of society and consequently have home-grown athletes.

With the changing media landscape, what are the major challenges FIS is facing?

As with all sports, the challenge is to attract participation among the young. Participation is essential both in terms of practising the sport, but also in identifying with the athletes and watching them perform. The growth of social media has changed the way young people communicate, produce and consume content and the challenge is to find ways to present the FIS product in an appealing and relevant way. This means a multiplatform approach and introduction of the FIS App is a promising start.

How can these further be met to remain attractive in future?

Celebrities have become role models for young people who follow their life and activities on social media. Athletes can also be celebrities and by promoting them as such young people will be interested in what the athletes do and how they do it.

Any final word?

Technology is creating constant change in the way that we communicate, share ideas and experiences, and also do business. The world has never been so competitive. FIS must grasp this new technology and use it in the most effective way to increase the interest and participation in snow sports, particularly in new markets, while maintaining the appeal and relevance in established markets.