AP signs exclusive deal with NKorea for HD video

Jan. 10, 2012
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TOKYO (AP) — Associated Press President and Chief Executive Tom Curley said Thursday the agency has signed an exclusive deal to provide high definition news video from North Korea to broadcasters worldwide.

In a speech in Tokyo, Curley unveiled the three-year agreement with North Korean state broadcaster KRT and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

"Today's announcement means that AP will be the only news agency to transmit broadcast quality HD video of key events in North Korea," he said at the Japan National Press Club.

Associated Press Television News will also have exclusive rights to deliver HD video feeds for individual broadcasters wishing to transmit their own reports from North Korea.

The infrastructure will be established ahead of 2012, when the country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of its late leader Kim Il Sung.

The deal extends AP's recent push into North Korea, officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, to a level unmatched by any other Western news organization.

AP announced in June that it had also signed a series of agreements with the Korea Central News Agency, including one for the opening of a comprehensive news bureau in Pyongyang.

Expected to launch early next year, the office would be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital. It builds upon the AP's existing video news bureau, which opened in Pyongyang in 2006.

In addition, the agencies signed a contract designating the AP as the exclusive international distributor of contemporary and historical video from KCNA's archive. The agencies also plan a joint photo exhibition in New York next year. They already had an agreement between them to distribute KCNA photo archives to the global market, signed earlier this year.

"This is a historic and watershed development," Curley said. "For AP, it extends further and deeper our global reach and shows the trust that is at the core of AP reporting. For the world, it means opening the door to a better understanding between the DPRK and the rest of the world."

Curley said the Pyongyang bureau was the fruit of "interesting" negotiations that took place over a long period of time. AP delegations visited North Korea several times, and KCNA representatives traveled to New York as well.

During the process, the AP kept governments abreast of the talks, Curley said. The United States and North Korea are still technically at war because a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.

"We have been given very positive support from various governments that this was a good thing, that having a Western media outlet operating in Pyongyang could possibly lead to other positive developments," Curley said.

The latest deal also highlights AP's broader digital transformation efforts in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

AP, which sees video as a critical part of its future, is investing at least $30 million into its video business. Under an 18-month plan, the agency is upgrading all infrastructure to eventually provide HD video that "will fit easily into digital platforms of any media customer anywhere."

Curley told the group of Japanese journalists that while the U.S. is "ground zero" for the digital media shift, "the movement of information consumption to online platforms and devices is here to stay, and it will inevitably upend traditional forms of media everywhere in the world."

Rather than fearing the shift, journalists should celebrate the growing market for content and find innovative ways to tell stories, Curley said.

The AP plans to release a major update to its popular mobile application later this year that is intended to benefit the agency as well as its local media partners. U.S. newspapers will be able to include their content in the new version and receive a share of the advertising revenue.

The company will also roll out several new products next year that have Curley hopeful about the future.

Revenue at the AP is up slightly this year — about 1 percent — and should climb several percent next year, he said. The new products are expected to drive at least $10 million in new revenue.

"We're putting double-digit new revenues in the budget for 2012 for these new products," Curley said.

Founded in 1846, the AP maintains bureaus in some 100 countries around the world and is the oldest and largest of the world's major news agencies. Curley was named president and CEO in 2003.

Associated Press writer Malcolm Foster contributed to this report.

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