NBC News is formally launching a new website, NBCUniversalArchives.com, that will allow customers to buy archive material from a number of divisions across NBCUniversal's businesses, including NBC News, NBC Sports, NBC Entertainment, Universal Studios, Universal Pictures, Telemundo, The Weather Channel, NBC Radio, NBC Photobank and others.
The effort is notable both because of its size-the site includes over 40,000 clips and provides clients with the ability to search through records for over 1 million bits of content-and because few other major media companies have attempted to centralize the process of selling their archives from a number of different divisions on one website.
NBC News executives believe the new site and their centralized approach to archive sales will allow them to boost revenues, both from the traditional customers of archive materials, such as documentary film makers and news producers, as well as companies in newer markets, such as e-book publishers or app developers, by making it easier to access a much wider array of content.
"It provides one-stop shopping because a producer won't have to go to one web site for news footage and then visit another site for sports," notes Cheryl Gould, senior VP at NBC News, which developed the site and is now running it.
At the same time, she notes, the centralized approach encourages additional sales. "It operates under the principle that if you go to a supermarket for milk, you may see other things you want once you get there," Gould says.
Making such a large amount of digitized material much more accessible is also allowing NBCU to tap into newer markets, such as e-books or apps for tablets and mobile devices.
"We are actively talking to publishers about how they can use this material," says Gould, who adds that digitization makes it much more likely that publishers to these newer platforms will be able to access and use their material. "I think the iPad and other tablets are really going to be a boom for our business because they open up the opportunity for all kinds of interest apps and content based on historical material."
Developing the site involved a major effort both in designing an e-commerce site that would bring together a massive amount of archived material from many separate sources and in working with many different divisions in its creation, notes Michael Fabiano, vice president of strategic initiatives at NBC News.
But he also stresses that the site represents the company's considerable ongoing commitment to the expansion of archive sales. "We have three shifts of people working six days a week" constantly refreshing the site with new materials, Fabiano says. The site has a clip of the week and anniversary sections that draw attention to anniversaries of upcoming notable historical events.
"There are four or five different teams within the building that are actively contributing to the site as well as the collection owners who continue to look at what they can add," he says.
The news division put together a business plan for the project last June and began work on the site in August. It went into beta trials in February and is being formally launched on July 18.
NBC News has been working with Thought Equity Motion, a provider of stock footage and digital technologies, for some time on digitizing and archiving its content. Thought Equity remains the key technological partner for the new website.
"They are providing the Web servers, the application servers, the Linux open source operating system," Fabiano says. "They have a very extensive and robust file tape system that stores all the content that we have on the site. That allows it to be accessible dynamically in real time so that when you place an order for a clip, that order is sent to a data center in the middle of Wyoming. A robotic arm goes and finds the long-form asset where that clip is and pulls the tape. It ingests it into the format you request in your online e-commerce order and then delivers it to you within one minute, posting it to your account so you can download it."
NBC has also integrated its digital asset management system from Ardendo into the Thought Equity system. That allows additional clips to be created from the many longer-form assets that have been digitized; those can then be posted to the website quickly, usually within 15 minutes.
NBC News already handles the sales for a few owned-and-operated stations, but the O&Os, like many local broadcasters, still have a long way to go in the process of digitizing their archives.
Fabiano notes, however, that they have been interested in the project, "and we are looking at setting up an affiliate owned-and-operated page."
Although the centralized site is operated by NBC News, Gould stresses that the individual divisions still are responsible for working with the client and deciding what material should be included. "We are the facilitator, the big supermarket for their efforts, but they still have their own deli counter," she says.