Tom Barnes: Introducing the all-new IMG Sport Video Archive

1 May 2013 | Posted in Features - Interviews | By Michael Long | Contact the author

Tom Barnes: Introducing the all-new IMG Sport Video Archive

The IMG Sport Video Archive, which manages, markets and distributes the world’s largest dedicated sports library, is now offering its vast selection of content for the first time via a new online video platform.

Available at, the new facility allows customers to search, browse, watch, clip and download memorable moments from many of sport’s most prestigious rights holders, with the latest available action from the likes of Wimbledon, The Open Golf Championship, the Barclays Premier League, IRB Rugby World Cup and the Australian Open available online from Wednesday 1st May 2013.

With around 500,000 tapes dating back over 100 years, the archive’s content, consisting of match footage, programming, interviews, ISOs and general views, is in the process of being digitised from its original format, with new material set to be uploaded every week to client-branded pages.

Ahead of the platform’s launch on Wednesday, SportsPro caught up with Tom Barnes (pictured below), the archive’s international sales manager, to discuss what’s in store.

What exactly is the IMG Sport Video Archive: what’s in it, what’s it for, when was it created?

The IMG (formerly TWI) archive itself I believe is around 20 or 25 years old, in terms of when it officially started, but only in the last 15 years has it really become its own kind of standalone business within IMG, a standalone division and moving from strength to strength. We represent only sport, in the past we have dabbled with non-sport, selling scenic shots of landmarks around the world for example, but our speciality is sport. That ranges right from athletics to water polo, through our federations and governing bodies that we represent. We literally do have the spectrum of sport pretty much covered. We’re very established and we have a number of competitors now in the marketplace but no one really to the level and depth of sports clients that we represent.
Does IMG own any of the content in the archive and do you also serve as storage?

While IMG does own some content in our archive which includes TransWorld Sport, Golfing World and FIFA Futbal Mundial shot content, others like Wimbledon, The R&A, Premier League are the rights holder. We’re in effect storing their media and selling their media as their agent. Some clients we only in fact store for, like the French Football League. We used to represent them; we no longer do commercially but because they’ve got nowhere to store their tapes we still actually store them in London and charge them for it. But that’s not our primary business, a warehouse as such.
How has the evolution of media recording technology affected the way content is stored?

How media was recorded 30 years ago to how it is now is constantly changing. So we’ve got a warehouse in London and several other storage locations around the world with about half a million individual tapes/film reels. Once agreed with each individual client, our long term aim is to digitise, and log the commercially valuable content, which is a huge project and it takes time. But what happens now is actually media, rather than being recorded to tape, it’s actually recorded digitally so we’re sort of cutting the digitising element out now. The problem was this: when customers come to us, if they’re buying Premier League football, which we’ve represented since its inception in 1992/93, they might want a football goal on a standard definition tape from 20 years ago and then another one of high definition tape from five years later, and then the last five years are all recorded digitially at source. If a customer is requesting Ryan Giggs goals then we’ve got his goals from all 20 seasons for example. A customer will want to receive the goals in one format from the last 20 years so that causes us some problems this end. Ideally, you’ve got one archive all stored in the same format in the same location all logged to a very high standard. It makes everyone’s life a lot easier. So that’s the headache we’re facing at the moment and will do going forward.
How long will the digitising process take?

It’s never ending. The real question is that there is a huge cost element associated with it. As I said earlier we don’t own all of the content, so as with any business clients can leave and go with other archive partners. We basically explain and educate our clients on the importance of digitisation and logging and then present the associated costs. If a client decides not to digitise any content then IMG doesn’t own the content so we wouldn’t consider digitising it. In theory if you digitise and log everything and upload it to a good website then the client should see an increase in revenue, but they need to take that leap of faith. Some of the archives like with Wimbledon and The R&A, they go back 100 years. What we have agreed with Wimbledon is to tackle the last seven years first (where all the content was recorded digitially) and log this content, upload it and see what return it brings before we tackle tape-based content going back 100 years. So there’s a commercial argument to say that if you do this you’re going to make more money in the long run but the other argument, which is equally as valid really, is eventually all these tapes that sit in warehouses around the world will eventually turn to vinegar, essentially, long, long term. The quality of the tape degrades, the quality of the image degrades, so if they don’t do it at some stage then in years to come they will lose that media. So there is a heritage reason as well as a commercial reason to do this.
How will the new website benefit you?

For the first time, it will enable the world to see what we can sell. It will also enable us to be proactive with our digitised content and engage in direct marketing to our customer base.  What this website will do, which is the key thing for us, whenever an event happens, so say Wimbledon will finish on the Sunday, on the Monday we’ll be able to proactively push that content through the website to our existing tennis customers, to the sponsors of the winning players for a television commercial. At present we can’t do that because everything is on tape, so a customer can’t visualise what we are trying to sell them. But also the most commercially valuable content to us is the most recent, so even though we still sell a lot of Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal from [the Rugby World Cup final against Australia in 2003), when the next World Cup happens in 2015 we’ll sell more 2015 content than we will from previous Rugby World Cups.

"What we’re trying to do is make it as intuitive as possible so that whoever the customer is can find what they’re looking for as easily and as quickly as they can."

You are offering a comprehensive results database linked to full length content. How does that work?

What’s norm in the industry is that most competitors will clip up small sections of a football match. They’ll take a 90-minute match, maybe find the goals that are in that game or something interesting that has happened and just put that clip on their website, in effect saying that that’s all they’ve got of that 90-minute match. Because really from a football match it’s the goals that sell, great skills, milestones in a career etc, or a blooper incident (someone falling over). So that’s what competitors do but what we’re doing is actually taking the whole 90-minute match, digitising the match, logging it in its entirety, and then displaying that match on a Premier League  branded area of our website. A user will be presented with a season league table and can select the home and away team to get the result and then this will click through into the 90 minute match. The user can then watch the match in its entirety if they wanted to or more likely search the full match for the moments they are interested in. So rather than just going on to a website, typing in ‘goal’ and thousands and thousands of results coming up, we’re trying to give each client their own branded area, which will look like or, within our own site, as well as this unique database which links results to video, which is very unique and that’s what has taken a lot of time to develop and is very much our USP really.
Is the plan to create a kind of sports content encyclopedia?

What we’re trying to do is make it as intuitive as possible so that whoever the customer is can find what they’re looking for as easily and as quickly as they can: that’s the ultimate aim. At the moment we’ve got a team of researchers who sit in London, New York or Sydney and if someone wants to find a goal, they find the goal for the customer. What we’re doing long term with the website is the customer becomes the researcher, so we’ve basically got to be thinking if I was the customer how would I do this? That’s what we’re trying to achieve. In terms of are we trying to create an encyclopedia? Our aim has always been to create the world’s best sports archive and the website is a major step in achieving our goal. What we’re trying to give is the headline results – you know, the match was 3-2, these are the goal scorers, click on here and that takes you straight to the video. We’re not going to then drill down into what the starting 11 was; who got booked at what time. All of that information will be available because the match will be logged but what happens is the technology that we’ve built for this has to try and accommodate so many different sports because we represent so many different sports, and to try and drill down into tennis for each set and each point, to try and drill down into golf for the card for the course for each round, is a huge, huge undertaking. So we’re almost going with the initial results offering, and I imagine in years to come the next stage of drilling down or providing this encyclopedia will come.

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