UIG Wins Britannica Subscription Service Contract

Posted on 6/29/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Universal Images Group, the distribution business unit of the Virtual Picture Desk, has been awarded a contract by the Encyclopaedia Britannica to provide an extensive online library of low-resolution (150 dpi) images suitable for educational use.

The Universal Education Image Library provides images from 32 primary educational subjects based on both school and college curriculums. The images will be added to those wholly owned by Britannica, and become part of Britannica’s new subscription service, Britannica Image Explorer. The agreement provides for revenue sharing between Britannica, UIG and the image providers.

The UIG library started with over 1 million images and video clips; it will reach 2 million by January 2011, the projected international launch of BIE. In the U.S., the offering launched this month. To access this library, state and county school districts pay a fee based on the number of students in their school and college systems.

There are currently over 40 million students in the USA alone. Once a subscriber pays the annual fees, its members—school children, students, instructors, professors, etc.—can download as many images as they like without any extra costs or charges.

This new product will enable students and teachers to find and incorporate high-quality photos and video into homework assignments, research projects and lesson plans. It will simplify the search for suitable images by providing access to millions of them in one place, along with reliable identifications, captions, sources and other data.  

Teachers and professors will be allowed to create light boxes and send images to students or print them for student assignments. In addition, the images can be displayed on Smartboards or whiteboards— but not in any other commercial or editorial product, such as textbooks. Any additional rights required by a subscriber, beyond the very limited rights granted through the subscription, must be obtained directly from image providers. This includes access to high-resolution images and license for any non-educational image uses.

Each view file will have the translucent Britannica watermark, and all view files will have metadata embedded to provide an extra level of security and limit the creation of orphan works.

UIG has been named the exclusive provider for external images used in BIE. Initial estimates are that the revenue generated will be in the range of $2 per image per year. Payments to image providers will be made based on the actual number of times specific images are downloaded. Britannica will report the total number of downloads of each unique image to UIG, and a proportional share of the net gross revenue will be allocated to each provider. Britannica’s share of gross revenue has not been disclosed, but image providers will receive 60% of the net revenue received by UIG.

As a point of reference, Alamy’s average return in 2009 was about $1.28 per images ($23 million divided by 18 million images). Because the UIG collection is edited specifically with educational uses in mind, it is reasonable to assume that the average return per image might be higher. It is also important to remember that some images will be downloaded very frequently and earn higher returns, while others will never be downloaded at all.

Working under Britannica’s editorial direction, UIG is sourcing, selecting, editing, aggregating and reprocessing images from multiple providers to create an educational library. In addition to proprietary Britanica content, image sources include Amana in Japan, Bridgeman Art Library, De Agostini Editore, DK Images, Lebrecht Music & Art, Mondadori Electa, the National Geographic Society, the National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Nature Picture Library, News International, Oxford Scientific, Photo Researchers, the Science & Society Museum, Science Photo Library, The Granger Collection and Wellcome Images. Getty Images and Corbis, also among the new library’s image providers, have been specifically limited to wholly owned content.

“UIG has provided us with a unique library of content, which is extensive in its coverage of subject matter. Schools, colleges, universities and public libraries can access this content online as an educational reference tool as part of our online subscription services,” said Michael Ross, senior vice president of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “We were delighted that UIG is able to deliver the library on time, thus enabling us to meet our planned launch date.”

UIG will offer selected packages of content from their Educational Image Library to other organizations, outside of the encyclopedic market, and for the distribution of single images for online education and information services through other distributors and service providers. “As part of our business strategy, we have moved into education, electronic publishing and Internet service markets representing a number of major image providers and integrating content through advance technology and systems, including API and FTP delivery platforms and cloud-computing storage,” stated George Sinclair, the founder of both the Virtual Picture Desk and Universal Images Group.

Copyright © Jim Pickerell. 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

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Mike Kahn Posted Jun 30, 2010
    Thanks for the write up, Jim. This info is very helpful for me and my agency!
    - Mike
    Green Stock Media
    http://www.greenstockmedia.com - Promoting sustainability one image at a time.

  • Gerard Fritz Posted Jul 2, 2010
    "Quantity sales add up", we've been told, to justify royalty free and microstock. It is sad to see even this shallow promise being dried up by agreements like this one.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jul 2, 2010
    Far too many stock providers want to "win" the race to the bottom!


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