News / 12.10.2010

Sports programming in YLE faces uncertain future

Linus Atarah

The Finnish broadcasting company (YLE) which used to bring sporting events free to people’s living rooms is considering giving away some sporting rights due to budgetary constraints, according to Lauri Kivinen the new CEO of YLE.

Lots of the sports viewing markets are going to the pay television sector and that changes the dynamics of the sports rights market which is now fragmented into multiple channels. Previously it was handled by public broadcasting but now sports is increasingly moving away from the open free market sphere into a commodity determined by the ability to pay.

“So the question now is whether as a public broadcasting company YLE can compete in this domain of changed sports rights market”, said Kivinen at a Radio and TV Journalists Union seminar on public broadcasting in Helsinki last week.

“We want to show sports, we want to be present through big sports events but we probably cannot afford everything that we have had” said Kivinen.

So YLE will be forced to select what sports rights to buy in the future depending on the preference of the audience, the cost and the programme charts.

For instance some sports events go through four months or two weeks, such as the Olympics. So there will have to be an evaluation of how to fit the events into the broadcasting programme charts, evaluate the importance of the events to the audiences and finally the cost of the sporting rights.

YLE is now examining the sports rights for the year 2014 and 2015. A decision as to whether to buy some rights to the 2014 Olympic Games will be taken this autumn.

“I assume we will show some Olympics, but how it will be determined, who will show what, and what it will cost is still open” said Kivinen.

Next year is not a sports year but 2012 and 2014 are the two big sports event represented by the Olympics and World Football Cup tournaments respectively.

But YLE is will be facing a conundrum. A reduction of the sports broadcasts might in turn drive away license payers many of who expect sports to be part of the broadcast menu and therefore a further reduction in revenues.

Kivinen also hinted that in the future YLE will invest more in domestic television production and purchases which constitutes about 15 per cent of YLE budget. Another area that will undergo transformation in YLE is investment on the Internet and IT. Kivinen announced that two weeks ago the company has shifted entirely to IT-based production system. The cost of investments in the operations and maintenance of such a system, he said, is equivalent to all the purchases of its entire domestic and foreign programmes.

Beyond 2011 and 2012, Kivinen said YLE would seek to increase its role in the creative scene. “How are we going to employ all the media workers, producers, etc?” he asked. There should be a creative sector.

In Finland the export of audio-visual material is less than five per cent and all other export in this sector is very small so there should be a strong decisiveness in investment to create a creative industry, and YLE would like to participate in that, Kivinen said.

YLE would also strengthen the production and participating in culture as well contributing to the debate on journalism and also playing a great role in constructing the information society in Finland.


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