Alan Whiter of Action Images on the changing world of sports media

Alan Whiter looks at how the changing demand for sport has impacted upon the digital media market.


GlobalSportsJobs: The demand for sports in all forms has changed enormously over recent years. How have you seen those changes and how have they impacted on Action Images?
Alan Whiter: When I first came into the industry, technology played a part but not so much as it does now. When we first came in 15 or 20 years ago everything that we shot, being a sports photography agency, was shot on film. So that impacted on delivery out to the media, how many frames we could take, who we could work for.
Technology has advanced so far now. Everything we shoot is now on digital so the speed of delivery is paramount. We can shoot in real time out to the media, which has advanced us into being a global leader in digital sports photography.
Previously, we were very UK and European-based in terms of delivering our images out to the media and to our commercial clients. Now we can operate in any country, anywhere in the world and have the same delivery and same speed of service.
GlobalSportsJobs: How much has demand increased?
AW: It's increased massively. We started out being a very editorial news agency working specifically in sport - we supplied to all the national UK papers and magazine market.
Now print media is dying out slightly. But there has been a transfer of content onto a digital platform. So we have to adapt so we can supply a lot more content onto more platforms using the internet. And also we've adapted our client base so we can work for a lot more of the commercial clients in sport - working for many rights holders, sponsors, advertising companies, PR companies etc.
The news aspect is still very important but we’ve definitely seen a growth in the commercial side of the sporting business.
GlobalSportsJobs: Do you think sport is now more important in people's lives than it was 25 years ago?
AW: I'm not sure if it's more important. I think what it is now is more accessible to more people. It’s now put smaller clubs and sports on a global scale. So you have your big sports and global governing bodies but then you also have a lot of smaller sports who get exposure on a platform that they would not have previously had access to.
So it's not necessarily more important, but is definitely more in the forefront of people's minds.
GlobalSportsJobs: How do you think the sports photographic sector is likely to develop in the future?
AW: I think it's a fine balancing act because the key to successful sports photography is actually getting your images out there in the news, getting people seeing them and getting the content and quality that you need. So you need to have technology platforms to get them out to the media, you need to invest in the backend of the sports business so your clients are happy. But you also need to make sure that the content is good content.
So editorially vs. commercially - you need to have that balance. You need the editorial platform for brand awareness and also need to bring commercial value to rights holders and sponsors. It's two parts of the business working well together.
The rights holders need to protect their brand and protect their content. But again, sport is such a big part of everyone's everyday lives and they want to hear about it all the time, so they need the editorial platform to get the message out there as well.


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