Agon/FIDE sign record-breaking media deal

by ChessBase
12/15/2015 – Agon is the commercial partner of FIDE, NRK a leadin Norwegian TV network. The latter has paid a record sum to secure long-term broadcasting rights for World Championship events on TV, from now until 2020. NRK has developed exciting ways to make chess interesting for TV audiences in countries around the world. The exact amount of the deal was not revealed, but it is in the low seven figures.

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Press release

Agon and FIDE Sign Record-Breaking Media Rights Deal

Agon, the commercial partner of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), has signed a ground-breaking media rights deal with NRK, a leading Norwegian TV network, that grants NRK exclusive broadcasting rights for Norway for all World Chess Championship events through 2020. The events include the 2016, 2018 and 2020 World Championship matches, the Candidates tournaments to select the challengers, and the annual World Blitz and Rapid Championships.

The parties did not release the amount of the deal, but stated that it’s in the low seven figures and is a record for chess.

The deal with NRK is the first ever long-term media rights deal for chess. “We are very happy to secure long-term rights for chess championship events. This will enable us to focus on innovation and further development of chess as a TV-product,” said Runar Ostmo, head of sports rights at NRK.

Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of Agon said, “Working with NRK, which has developed exciting ways to make chess interesting for TV audiences, is a big step for chess. With their expertise and technology, we hope to offer chess programming to other countries in Europe and around the world.”

The acting president of FIDE, Gorgios Makropoulos, said, “Having chess on TV is a huge step forward, and we are very pleased that NRK will continue its excellent work with us.”

Chess is played by hundreds of millions people worldwide (according to Yougov, the British market research firm)and its popularity is growing. Many cities and even some countries have added chess instruction in their schools in some cases making it part of the curriculum. The growth of smartphones, many of which have powerful chess apps (including one developed by World Champion Magnus Carlsen) is also helping to develop the global audience.

Despite those assets, chess has rarely been broadcast on TV, almost certainly because it needs an audience educated in some of the intricacies of the game to understand it, and it has trouble competing with more visual sports. Even curling, the Winter Olympic sport, has managed to attract a dedicated following.

But chess has had its moments in the past. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, “The Master Game,” was a popular show on the BBC in Britain. And ESPN, the American sports network, broadcast Garry Kasparov’s match against X3D Fritz in 2003.

NRK, which has developed novel tools for broadcasting chess on TV — including dedicated studios, chess analytics software and other devices — may be successfully overcoming some of the obstacles to making chess a “televised sport.” Its chess programming in Norway, including the 2013 and 2014 World Championships, and the 2015 World Blitz and Rapid Championships, enjoyed very high ratings.

It helps, of course, that Carlsen is Norwegian and is one of his country’s best-known sports figures.

Though the Norwegian television audience has a better reason than in many other countries to be interested in chess, FIDE and Agon are hoping that the deal with NRK can be a blueprint for expanding chess programming into other markets.

Source: Agon

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