Coup for NENT as it prises top Alpine and Nordic events from public broadcasters
By Simon Ward
Nordic Entertainment (NENT) Group, the northern European media company that has been spun off from Scandinavia’s Modern Times Group, has swooped for rights across the region to Alpine and Nordic World Cup and World Championships skiing events with effect from 2021.
Under a long-term deal with Infront, the international sports marketing agency which handles the rights of multiple national ski federations and FIS, the international ski federation, NENT will offer more than 500 hours of live coverage per season on its Viasat pay-television and free-to-air channels and Viaplay and Viafree streaming services.
The wide-ranging deal will bring to an end to the established and extensive coverage of skiing by public-service broadcasters NRK in Norway, SVT in Sweden and YLE in Finland, which have rights deals for World Cup and World Championships events to 2020, but were outbid by NENT for the next cycle.
The group’s new deal with Infront covers the following events starting in 2021:
- Mens and Ladies FIS Alpine Ski World Cup
- Mens and Ladies FIS Cross Country World Cup
- Mens and Ladies FIS Ski Jumping World Cup
- Mens FIS Nordic Combined World Cup
- Mens and Ladies FIS Snowboard World Cup
- Mens and Ladies FIS Freestyle Ski and Freeski World Cup
- FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2023
- FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 2023
- FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2025
- FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 2025
The agreement does not include World Cup events in countries where Infront does not have deals with the national federations, notably Austria and Switzerland, which are aligned with the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of mostly public-service broadcasters.
The acquisition of high-profile skiing events comes on the back of other deals secured by NENT since last June with the likes of England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1, Formula 1, IndyCar and handball’s World and European Championships.
Late last month, MTG completed the spin-off of NENT into a separate listed company on the Nasdaq exchange. MTG has transformed itself into an eSports and online gaming company, with investments in eSports companies ESL and DreamHack and gaming companies InnoGames and Kongregate.
Anders Jensen, the president and chief executive of NENT, said today: “This agreement is a major milestone for us. I consider it just as significant as the acquisition of the Ice Hockey World Championship rights in 1989 and the Olympic rights in 2011... winter sports have created some of the greatest Nordic sports stars of all time. This addition of winter sports to our platforms, especially Viaplay, once again reinforces NENT Group’s position as the undisputed home of world-class sports experiences in the Nordic region.”
Bruno Marty, Infront’s senior vice-president of winter sports, added: “Infront’s DNA is rooted in winter sports and we believe this new agreement goes a long way to securing their future. We know NENT Group will provide an unparalleled distribution across all platforms, delivering a top-quality broadcast on free and pay television and exploiting their vast OTT experience to showcase more of these sports to a far younger audience than ever before.”
There is naturally sadness at the broadcasters which have lost rights to the FIS World Cup and World Championship events, with NRK’s sports editor Egil Sundvor saying: “We are of course extremely disappointed. These broadcasting rights are important for us, and we stretched ourselves very far financially to secure them.”
He added that NRK will continue to offer news coverage of the events, and there will still be other prominent winter sports events on the network, notably in biathlon and speed skating.
Sundvor claimed that it is becoming increasingly difficult for public broadcasters to compete with commercial players, saying: “We’ve already seen that with football rights, but now we’ve seen a whole new standard of price-setting for winter sports. NRK stretched itself as far as possible, but the price level was completely extreme.”
In a recent interview with Sportcal Insight, Marty acknowledged the importance of partnerships Infront had with public broadcasters in the leading winter sports markets of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
However, he added that as long as there was a strong element of free-to-air coverage, the agency was happy to team up with commercial networks.
Marty said: “In many countries you have strong commercial broadcasters in place, so it doesn’t mean you will always be on public television. We all remember RTL and ski jumping in Germany. That was, I think, a good time for the sport, and it was still on free-TV. Ice hockey was for some years on TV4 in Sweden, also a commercial broadcaster, and we’ve had MTV in Finland. There are cases where we work with commercial broadcasters in some countries.”
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