Hey, I wasn’t too far off the other day when I wrote, in one of my recent entries, that the Apocalypse is near. We’ve been hit by a smooth criminal. People in this industry will remember this day like other people remember where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. Some others, tired of throwing their arms up in the air, are packing and moving west..Ooops, that’s the great depression. We are not there yet.
After receiving emails, phone calls, IM’s, telegrams, knocks on my door, Skypes, rss feeds, press releases, warnings, pages, rings, pings and other dings about the big Acquisition of 2007, I can now quietly write down my thoughts.
The first element to consider in the short term is that nothing will change. It seems that Getty will keep the brands separated, at least for a while. This is NOT going to be a fast and smooth integration, but if Getty proceeds unit by unit, it should be completed by a year’s time . They have already somewhat announced that Contour’s images will be available within their “Exclusive” collection. Their Sports and RM collection should follow very quickly. However, Getty practically now has a full monopoly on sports coverage in the US as Wireimage has exclusive agreements with the leagues that Getty doesn’t have. Expect some loud noises coming from there, both on the shooting side but also from image buyers.
On the event entertainment side, things will be much more complicated. Wireimage is a celebrity event photo factory. They cover practically all celebrity red carpet, parties and other PR organized celebrity gatherings on the planet. They also edit very loosely, posting hundreds, if not thousands of images per event. Not really compatible with the tight edits of a Getty wire service. Furthermore, the celebrity media, worldwide, have been dropping “official” celebrity event imagery for the more exciting, more revealing behind the bushes paparazzi images. Wireimage, as well as Getty, being friends of the celebrities, their cranky agents and publicists, cannot produce those kind of images. Let’s just say, you cannot license the official images of Angelina Jolie’s baby and the next day, pictures of her kissing a man other than Brad Pitt.
Maybe this is where we have an answer to one of the most frequently asked questions. Why did Mediavast sell? After all, they recently raised another $15 million . You usually do not raise money, if you have decided to sell your company. Could it be that Mediavast was hurting ? Probably. The type of coverage Wireimage is supplying is very expensive as it requires a lot of hands. And quite frankly, besides a few exclusives here and there, most of these events are covered by other agencies or independent photographers. There is a saturation of “red carpet” images worldwide and the price per image is very low.
So what now, you ask. Well, if Getty manages to consolidate all the offerings , it is very good news. Getty will have enough fire power to permit an increase in price per image. That means other agencies, if they are smart, should follow. Furthermore, because all the images will be in one place, image buyers will have more time to visit other sites. Finally, when they do consolidate, there will be less photographers on the red carpet. After all, I doubt that Getty will pay to have 5 or 6 photographers for one movie premiere. (A lot of Wireimage’s photographers are staff and are paid a flat salary, like Getty’s).
It is also good news because some image buyers will have a such repulsion towards this giant photo shopping center, that they will start brokering deals with smaller, boutique size , family friendly operations. And finally, but certainly not the least important point, the content creators will become extremely prudent.
Who are the content creators? Not the photographers. They only photograph what is in demand. The content creators are the TV and Movie studios. They are the ones who bring value to these celebrity images by creating the stars. Once they figure out that someone else is cashing big bucks on their investment, they will do something about it.
Already NBC Universal, the ever forward thinking television network, has its own photo agency. After trying the existing agencies route, they have brought back everything in house. Result : They create a hot new TV show, they license the images too. No more middle man.
That is something to ponder about for the rest of the photo industry. What if everything needed a model or property release? Some architects are already doing this. In France you already need a model release, even for editorial use. What would happen to photography, mostly stock photography, if this became a universal law? But oops, I am digressing.
Let’s just say that this is a great time to be in this industry. While some doors seem to be closing, others are opening, powers are shifting and only the best surfers will remain on the waves. It’s painfully delightful…