Peacock in photo biz

NBC U launches pic distrib

Uncle Miltie is going digital.

NBC Universal is taking control of its massive six-decade-old photo archive, launching a unit designed to digitize and distribute its pics — and possibly open up some revenue streams as well.

Kevin Fitzgerald, a former Fox exec who started digital pic distribution pioneer ImageDirect, has been put in charge of what’s being called the NBC U Digital Media Distribution Group. He’ll report to Ray Slay, VP of NBC U photography and new media.

Move means NBC is ditching an arrangement with Globe Photos, which had been handling the licensing of Peacock pics. Starting in July, NBC will launch a digital platform to handle licensing and distribution of its photos.

Slay said the Peacock’s “photo archives represent an extremely valuable business and historical asset” and that the unit “will allow us to better service photos at the same time that we adequately preserve and protect” the net’s archive.

While there may be “lucrative business opportunities to pursue in the future,” Fitzgerald said immediate goal of the unit is to give NBC better control of its copyrighted images, which date back to the net’s radio days.

Digitization will be key since, in some cases, the original prints are decaying. NBC U also has increased its photo assets in recent years with the acquisition of brands such as Bravo, USA Network, Sci Fi and Telemundo.

Fitzgerald said converting all of NBC U’s prints into digital images will take quite a while. “We expect to be moving a minimum of 2,500 to 3,000 images per month into our databases,” he said.

After serving as director of photo publicity at Fox Broadcasting, Fitzgerald left the net to start ImageDirect, which was the first all-digital photo production and online licensing company concentrating on celebs and the entertainment biz. In 2003, Fitzgerald sold his company to Getty Images.

Since then, he has worked as a consultant to various photo agencies.

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