Actually, in the days of true Olympic amateurism, the athlete was not allowed to accept any money, even prize money, nor anything else of value to be an amateur. The term amateur no longer has any relevance in figure skating. Plushenko and Kwan were allowed to make piles of money while still competing in ISU events. The only distinction now is "eligible" and "ineligible" and the only real money difference is whether the events where you earned your money were ISU sanctioned/ federation approved.Amateur means that the skaters are not paid (although they can win price money).
Still, there is an issue here in that skaters with some international success can earn enough to support themselves while skaters not good enough to earn much prize money or get paid for shows and exhibitions need other jobs and/or support from federations, sponsors and their families.
I'm not sure the ISU gives those folks much thought in deciding how to run things.
I think the ISU does pretty well selling TV rights to speed skating in Europe. I don't know about the rest of the world but, historically, interest from US TV networks has always been pretty low. Back when FS broadcast rights were valuable in the US, the ISU used to bundle figure and speed skating so that the network who wanted figure skating had to buy both. Then the ISU gave a big chunk of what was really FS revenue to the speed skating side.Since the ISU also governs speedskating, that may be the best comparison. What kinds of ticket sales and broadcast contracts do speedskating championships attract?
BTW, there are also qualifying standards for speed skating worlds, if that's any consolation.
I can't think of any Olympic movement sport that does not hold World Championships. * The ones who do not have a big enough following for the championships to pay for themselves thru TV and ticket sales find other ways to pay for them, like corporate sponsorships. The event would have to be very different, though, with a much smaller budget. For starters, they would probably be in smaller cities with smaller (cheaper to rent) arenas. They may even have to cut back on the VIP lounges and luxury hotel suites for Speedy and his cronies.For the skating championship to take place, the organisers needs to ensure that they sell the tickets and TV rights. I understand what you are saying that "Lots of sports that aren't spectator-friendly have world championships", but I don't believe that it would happen in skating if people didn't want to watch it.
* Edited to add - I've been pondering this question all afternoon and did think of one. Tennis doesn't have a world championship, but it isn't because they couldn't afford one. They already have plenty of other big events. Is baseball still in the Olympics? I'm not sure if they have one either.