It’s not just that news services like the Associated Press are moving to Sony. The newest blip on that front is the UK’s PA Media Group making the plunge. It is that Sony is providing wrap-around support for these firms, and that these firms are collections of companies that will likely lead to a Sony metastasization through related organizations with even greater reach.
Canon’s dominant marketshare on the very high end of professional photographers previously was protected by several moats of defense.
To impart the energy needed to push major firms to make an assessment and go E mount, Sony developed a business development unit specifically for the purpose. It did two new things: 1) it cleverly targeted organizations that would lead to follow-on effects; and 2) it included in the blanket of services to those organizations many of the resources missing from its nascent, and somewhat hapless, professional services group hindered by very thin country-by-country staffing.
The Associated Press is a coop of 1,300 news organizations. While PA Media Group sounds podunk in comparison, it is a clever choice of target, as – among other things – it owns Alamy, the somewhat-reviled, but quite successful platform hosting about a quarter billion images from professional photographers who are willing to give 60 percent of licensing revenue over to the firm.
Make no mistake, Sony is making highly selective inroads, but those inroads are junctions to the heart of the professional market.
The improved functionality of E mount cameras has been critical, of course, but these organizations can’t execute the cultural change necessary to get “I know what’s right” photographers to switch platforms without providing wrap-around support. For several years, Sony has been providing cameras, training, early access previews and performatively making changes to hardware and software in response to suggestions from these companies. In creating the deals that provide the means of swapping in new equipment, Sony is visiting on site; providing one-on-one support with individual photographers; giving access to GM glass; doing the relationship work to move minds. It’s impressive.
Martin Keene, Group Picture Editor at PA Media Group, said: “Sony’s silent shutter, superb lenses and brilliant sensors, along with the relationship that we have built-up with them over the past few years made the switch an easy choice.” It was not an overnight decision to move to E mount. What would be really interesting: Sony getting Alamy to help promote the spread of E mount systems among its thousands of image contributors.
While Nikon has been taken out of the running in good part because of its incapacity to provide a full mirrorless lens system within a four-year period, Canon has responded to Sony’s offensive. Decisions to provide certain video features in its stills cameras – like identical color science between the stills rigs and the cine rigs – is a direct answer to Sony having given this to the news organizations. Previously, this was a price stratification point for Canon.
The Canon Professional Services (CPS) system was already much stronger than that of Sony, but Sony does not appear to be employing its anemic pro network to the job. Rather, it uses its business-to-business sales team in a full-court press. Canon does not appear yet to have developed a new group to answer this, with the greatest growth in the Canon USA headquarters involving the unrelated field of medical technology.
Does this mean that Canon is Doomed? Far from it. Sitting atop a greater than 50 percent marketshare of pro bodies, Canon might not be adequately aggressively defending some of its key clients, but this does not hand the industry to Sony. It gives Sony an increasing minority share and proves that it is no Samsung: the company that dumped a superior product on the market briefly, only to quietly retreat from the product category.
Sony is essentially the new Nikon. It’s the #2 firm that is trying harder – just without the pedigree and perhaps with much more reliable capital backing.