Spears turns to Splash site for video footage

Celebrity pictures agency Splash has launched an online video archive – and found that pop star Britney Spears was one of its first customers.

The founder of the British-owned, but US-based agency, Kevin Smith, said: “The pop tart was struggling to pad out her own reality television show, and called on the company’s stock of footage for her to air in the US.”

Splash has so far put some 2,000 video segments on its website and claims figures of some 4.4 million page impressions a month – far exceeding the number of views for its long-established stills website.

Smith said: “It is a sign of the way things are moving. The public and the readers want more than a newspaper these days, they are looking to the web, and they want the web to be more than static. A bit like the Daily Prophet newspaper in the Harry Potter films, the pictures move.

“Rupert Murdoch has been telling newspaper makers they have to embrace new media, and we have to sit up and take notice too. As suppliers of raw materials to newspapers, we have to change what we supply.”

Former Sun journalist Smith said that UK newspapers have been comparatively slow to adapt in terms of using video footage on their websites.

“Interest in the UK is starting, but we have been selling video to illustrate the best celebrity stories for a while in such far-flung places as Norway, China, Spain and Croatia.”

The Splash video site allows customers to search, view and then download news clips ready for broadcast.

And the agency, which is almost entirely staffed by Britons, now equips reporters with video cameras as well as notepads and tape recorders. Smith said: “Things are changing fast. Our four biggest sales in the past two years have all been video. Last year the biggest single sale was world exclusive video of Anna Nicole Smith and her sugar daddy, J Howard Marshall.

“Our reporter David Leigh – formerly with the Daily Mirror and Daily Express – had been doing a buy-up with Anna Nicole’s relatives when he stumbled on their family tapes. It was amazing stuff. The only footage of the couple together in existence. But best of all, on the tape the old boy reads his last will and testament. And this came out just as she took her claim for her $477m share of his fortune to the Supreme Court in Washington.”

According to Splash, its website has become so popular that it is considering becoming a publisher in its own right.

Smith said: “The greatest interest in the video website is from fans, according to the weblogs. The debate now is do we continue to simply supply raw material to newspapers and magazines, or do we become the publisher ourselves and reach these fans with our content?”

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