81 TIB ACQUIRES ARCHIVE
July 8, 1997
The Image Bank (TIB) has acquired Archive Holdings, Inc, which operates Archive Films/Archive Photos, the world's largest provider of archival stock footage and photos. The acquisition represents more than 20 million historical stills and 14,000 hours of vintage motion picture footage.
According to Rex Jobe, president and CEO of TIB, "This acquisition is a perfect alignment with our strategic approach to expansion. Archive complements our existing stills and film business and provides new opportunities for growth."
To many this is a strange move for TIB which has been focused on selling to the advertising and corporate markets since its inception over twenty years ago. However, now the thinking in all the major agencies seems to be growth and expansion into all areas of the market.
"The two companies will be independently managed to preserve the continuity of established relationships," Jobe continued. "Our customers want to deal with people who know and understand their tastes and needs. We don't want to lose the personal touch that both companies are known for."
TIB has a library of 20 million photographs, 10,000 hours of motion picture film and 100,000 illustrations. They operate more than 70 offices in 35 countries.
"This is a synergistic coupling of the world's best contemporary and archival image libraries," says Patrick Montgomery, president of Archive. "The use of licensed images and illustrations is a creative process. Sometimes people know exactly what they want. Often finding the right image is an imprecise art. They have a concept, and we show them different images that would be impossible or impractical for them to recreate otherwise."
The two companies will share resources and expertise for developing and implementing more efficient tools for indexing, locating, delivering and tracking images.
"The images in our network are only as good as our ability to match them with our customer's needs," Jobe says. "We get a tremendous variety of requests, usually with multiple options for filling those needs through personalized research, print and CD catalogs and the Internet. Some options are better than others, but a few, and maybe only one, are exactly right for fulfilling our customer's creative objective."
TIB has also recently acquired Swanstock, a fine art oriented agency, and they have a representation agreement with Duomo, a well known sports photography agency to handle sales of their material overseas. In addition TIB has the rights to distribute the images in the Ripley's Believe It Or Not collection.
Archive has recently acquired the Frederick Lightfoot Photo Collection and also represents the Reuters photo archive, selections from The New York Times Photo Library, The Sporting News, The New York Herald Tribune Collection, The Museum of the City of New York's Prints & Photographs Collection, and is the exclusive U.S. agent for Popperfoto, Express Newspapers, The Imperial War Museum and more.
Rumors abound that TIB is about to acquire PNI as a way of gaining quick access to technology for distributing images on the Internet, and making electronic distribution available through their 70 worldwide offices.
Rex Jobe would not comment on this point, but did say, "We are exploring all options for internal and external distribution of our images on-line."
We discussed PNI in the March issue and estimated that gross sales for 1996 were probably no more than $4 million, of which PNI, got to keep $1.6 million, at most. We have no accurate estimate of annual operating costs.
According to Photo District News, venture capital firms including Tribune Ventures and Marquette Venture Partners have pumped more than $20 million into PNI and have decided it is time to get out of a losing operation.
It is unclear what will happen to the work of the 36 stock agencies and almost 36 other image suppliers who presently distribute work through PNI. Most have five year contracts that are about to end.
It is hard to imagine that TIB would want to provide a marketing environment for its competitors. Some of PNI's agencies have also indicated that they would probably be uncomfortable with TIB having control of their future on-line marketing. Thus, if TIB does purchase PNI these agencies will probably look for other on-line options.
On the other hand, the agencies may not have a whole lot of choice. It is becoming very apparent that building a workable on-line database is a very costly process and there are very few workable options at the present time.
It is our understanding that TIB has recently devoted a lot of energy to keywording images using the PNI system and this is another reason why they felt it was in their best interest to try to gain control of the technology when it was offered for sale.
Archive has about 20,000 images on PNI. And their gross return in 1996 was in the range of $100,000. They have also had images on a forum on Compuserve for about three years which is targeted more toward the general consumer. They are paid for the Compuserve uses based on download times, but their revenue from this source has gone down as on-line charges have been reduced and modems have gotten faster requiring less time for each download.
Patrick Montgomery believes that licensing rights direct to the consumer as is the case with Compuserve, can only be successful for photo sellers when the internet develops an efficient system to pay for each view and when individual organizations of the size of TIB and Archive control their own site.
PNI has been a way for the small to medium size agencies to participate on the Web without the necessity of developing and operating an expensive database of their own. The only viable option remaining for these companies is Workbook Online which up to now has not been aiming at the editorial market.
At this stage, Workbook provides a search engine, but no delivery of large digital files. It has been this feature that has evidently drawn many customers who need editorial content immediately to PNI.