2005: WireImage nabs Tour exclusive
The PGA Tour has entered into a licensing agreement with WireImage, naming the New York-based photo agency as its exclusive provider of Tour players’ images for commercial use.
The multiyear deal enables the Tour to better govern how images of its players are made available to the public and creates a new revenue stream. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
WireImage, a 4-year-old company known mostly for its work in the celebrity field, will become the sole provider of tournament photographs of PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour players that are intended for commercial use. For example, golf equipment companies will need to buy tournament images of its tour endorsers from WireImage when using them for advertisements.
Additionally, WireImage will assume management of the Tour’s historical photo archive, which includes approximately 40,000 images from the past 15 to 20 years. WireImage also will begin selling Tour images to editorial entities such as magazines and newspapers.
“We’re going to be the official photographers of the PGA Tour,” said Marc Kurschner, WireImage’s senior vice president of sales and operations.
Tour officials said they pursued the licensing agreement, in part, to put some teeth behind a previously unenforced Tour policy, which declared that images shot for editorial use at Tour events could not be used commercially without the permission of the Tour.
“That’s something that was not necessarily adhered to in the marketplace,” said Craig Peters, the Tour’s director of new media. “There were a significant amount of photographers that were selling images in the commercial marketplace and deriving revenue without any approval from the Tour.”
This deal is designed to end such practices. But some industry executives familiar with the situation say other complications could surface. They expressed concern about WireImage’s limited experience in golf, and potentially, a limited selection of choice photographs.
“Now the (advertising) designers at TaylorMade, Callaway and Nike Golf are going to be told they have to go to WireImage to get pictures,” said a photographer who requested anonymity. “And it’s going to be a mess, because (WireImage) has such a limited amount of inventory. And their work is not done by traditional golf photographers.”
WireImage’s resume, however, does include sports photography experience. In August, the NFL jointly licensed its player images to WireImage and rival Getty Images. Furthermore, some golf equipment manufacturers said they did not anticipate having problems working with WireImage.
Bob Combs, the Tour’s senior vice president of public relations, also noted that an extensive photo archive is not as valuable as it may seem for the commercial marketplace because players change sponsorship affiliations with such regularity.
“If a player image is three years old, it may, in effect, be useless,” said Combs, who noted that similar licensing agreements are prevalent in most other sports leagues. “Photos that are fresh and current are critical.”