Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getty Images and Bloomberg - Futurescape

Let's say you're Getty images, and you have to pay a staffer $350 a day, plus gear and other overhead, to cover an event, which would amount to about $600 a day. From that event, let's say you have fifteen $25 sales of your wholey-owned content, or, even worse, 100 images fit the bill for a subscription model, where the per-image attribution is $1.50. That's maybe about $200 in revenue from your wholey-owned content. Couldn't you cut out that $600 expense and do it cheaper?

What if you were distributing the images of Agence France Press (AFP) and Bloomberg who have their own photographers and wholey-owned content, and they wanted to use the Getty distribution pipleline to reach more customers? Getty recently announced here that they would be the editorial distributor for Bloomberg News images.

Now, as a Getty staffer covering an event, you need to be looking at both the AFP and Bloomberg photographers as your competition. Note - I am not talking about the healthy competition between, say, the AP and Reuters and AFP, but actually, competition for whether or not you get to keep your job. This is because, if you're not careful, some green-eyeshade-wearing actuary will do the math and realize that carrying editorial staff photographers just might not be economically sound, and as Getty recently shuttered their creative photography division (as we reported here), so too might the agregated revenue from AFP and Bloomberg prove that they can do without editorial staff photographers.

(Continued after the Jump)

While theses employees are a significant revenue stream for Getty, they may not meet the profit targets that Hellman and Friedman have for Getty before they try to sell their entire library to Google or Yahoo. Don't think it could happen? Dan Heller, just a few weeks ago wrote here - Might Picscout Ultimately Cause Yahoo to Acquire Getty? - about this very possibility. While Dan and I come at things from differing perspectives, I often enjoy reading what he has to say. Trust me when I say this - the ONE thing Yahoo/Google don't want to do, is have photographers on their payroll.

What about all those contracts with the sports leagues? Each of those teams has their own photo departments, and Getty under a Yahoo/Google could just become a distribution point for those pre-existing teams. I know, it's complicated, but when cost savings, and profits from IP are the topics of conversation, smart business people figure out how to cut costs. More than one time I have been at an event where there was a WireImage, FilmMagic, Getty, and AFP photographer covering an event, and everyone looks around scratching their heads - that is essentially 3.5 photographers covering ONE event, that normally would be covered by one. Why not scratch the WireImage, FilmMagic and Getty photographers, and be the distribution point for the AFP and Bloomberg images from that event? That's essentially the same revenue as 1 photographer. Don't think that the bean counters haven't thought about this.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


argv said...

The reason why Yahoo or Google would acquire Getty is to gets it licensing infrastructure and name-brand moniker, and then use it as a monitization vehicle for the hugh aggregate content that each site has under its own photo-sharing services. All business units would be subject to review. In short, one rarely acquires a company for ALL its assets--just the valuable ones, leaving the others to be stripped and either sold off or junked.

I still strongly believe that Getty would be a prime acquisition target for any of the up-coming social networks that focus on photography... this, especially as the tech sector is coming out of its own economic slump and stock prices are rising again. (This is the capital such companies use to acquire others.)

As for your business assessment of the average Getty photographer at events, the subject is a bit broader than the way you portrayed it--the photographers get a lot more than just a few newsworthy photos. There are often shots that can go into the traditional stock stream and yield great value in perpetuity, if the photographer and the conditions of the moment come together well.

In fact, I would say that Getty's greatest strength is the way it manages its paid staff of photographers *as a business unit*. That is, its coverage of news, events, wars, and other topics that are best shot by staff pros is top notch. It's certainly reasonable that a good fundamental business model can be achieved, even during this difficult transition period of main-stream media companies.

All the more reason why the company would be a good acquisition target for a much larger, more forward (future) looking, tech-savvy, internet company: Getty would be a needed and valuable frosting on top of an otherwise extremely large, dense cake. (Getty had the opportunity to take this cake in the early days, but failed to do so.)

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