Associated Press: Chasing Britney

Posted on 8/20/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

This month saw the launch of Celebrity Extra, the first of a multimillion-dollar group of new entertainment-focused news products from the Associated Press. Focusing on A-list stars, Celebrity Extra video is available now, and a photo service is scheduled to launch in September.

Designed to complement the AP Entertainment Daily News service, Celebrity Extra focuses on people and lifestyles rather than events. The video is delivered to subscribers as four 10-minute weekday bulletins, which include ready-to-air video-story packages, supporting scripts and shotlists.

To produce Celebrity Extra, the AP invested in new staff and state-of-the-art video production technology in Los Angeles, New York and London. This follows several other employee reassignments and new hires, ongoing since January, when the news agency's entertainment director Dan Becker disclosed plans to hire 21 additional entertainment-beat employees to provide entertainment coverage in video, photo, audio, text and multimedia formats.

The media had a blast quoting from an email by AP's Los Angeles assistant bureau chief, who wrote: "Now and for the foreseeable future, virtually everything involving Britney is a big deal." When launching Celebrity Extra, Becker confirmed that entertainment is a significant growth area, "particularly for visual images of the top stars." He added that AP's combination of text and imagery, combined with its market-leading position, offers a competitive advantage.

Stock-industry insiders already know that entertainment imagery is a growth area, particularly when contrasted with declining revenues of other business segments. However, the segment seems poised for a battle of the giants, as several large and well-financed news and image suppliers are flocking to the same niche.

While the Associated Press and, for example, Getty Images started out in different industries, the current situation at both companies is not dissimilar. The AP is in the middle of a newspaper bloodbath; it is losing both customers and revenue. Getty Images faces an identical challenge as a consequence of microstock's rising popularity. All indications point to more of the same in the future on both fronts.

In addition to placing a higher emphasis on the editorial-image market, both companies have also invested in new Web and multimedia services. Getty's mobile app JAM'D is unique in its narrow focus. However, AP's broader-scope mobile service carries a number of photo and video sections. These are purely visual and cover local U.S. news, entertainment and specific stories, such as the Olympics or presidential elections.

Getty's domination of the stock-licensing market had been virtually uncontested prior to the advent of microstock, as independents simply did not have enough resources to compete at the top level. Existing editorial-segment players offer much more formidable competition, particularly when one of them is investing millions to pursue Getty's most lucrative and stable business line.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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