Here's how much revenue your video helps generate for a big TV network

Dan Robinson

WxLibrary Editor
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Jan 14, 2011
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As a follow-up to this earlier thread, consider the following: These are reported ad rates in 2017 for a 30-second spot for the following programs:

NBC Nightly News ...........................$42,043
ABC World News Tonight ............$39,968
CBS Evening News............................$39,618
NBC Today (morning show).........$52,325

Those figures are for **EACH** 30 SECOND AD SLOT!!! Your video is often the biggest ratings draw for shows like these - especially when a weather story is the lead.

Also consider that the video goes out to affliates and is used on secondary shows, online outlets and more. Your video could by itself be generating a large share of 6 figures PER DAY for these companies. Yes - that could be over a million dollars in the course of a few days that you just made for a huge corporation - for that $150 price that you've been led to believe is "better than nothing"!

Sources:

Recent trends for broadcast news ad rates have even shown increases in some markets:

 
Last edited:
Aug 9, 2012
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Wow. That's all I have to say. Even more sobering is that some people are willing to give away their video for free (IE Twitter). Good example being that a video of a levee breaching near Davenport, Iowa a couple weeks ago was released to the press, for what I guarantee was for free. I saw that video on almost every platform. Granted it was a business' security video, its no excuse for media to not pay for it. This is something I see almost everyday, media outlets sifting Twitter for video to use for free. A lot of times Twitter video has more air time than stringer video too. My question is, how do we get media outlets to pay higher amounts with these figures available to the public? Or is it just a lost cause? I know video sales and revenue isn't as hot as it used to be for chasers say 15-20 years ago (I always think of the film Nightcrawler).
 

Dan Robinson

WxLibrary Editor
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Jan 14, 2011
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It's just education. The more people know about this, the better it will get. I think video rates could recover a lot if everyone knew what video was worth. The networks are not hurting. Some newsworthy events will have a lot of sources, but there are many (like the levee breach example) that don't have much competition.
 
Jun 14, 2009
327
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Altoona, Iowa
toddrector.com
Hi, this is (blah blah media) can we use your video of this (million to one) shot on all platforms with credit to you?
As long as people keep saying yes, we have a problem. I hate to blame the lay public because they don't know how much their video is worth, nor do they know how to sell it, but argh... The networks can be such cheap vultures sometimes...
 

B. Wade

Enthusiast
Hi, this is (blah blah media) can we use your video of this (million to one) shot on all platforms with credit to you?
As long as people keep saying yes, we have a problem. I hate to blame the lay public because they don't know how much their video is worth, nor do they know how to sell it, but argh... The networks can be such cheap vultures sometimes...




This is so true, even on Instagram etc, its a sad deal, Social media is a blessing but also a Curse at times bc it does allow people to give footage away so much quicker.....
 
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James K

EF1
Mar 26, 2019
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Wow....I had no idea!!

Any pics I post online (not just weather) have always gotten a watermark of my site username or name.
Any weather-related vids that go on YouTube get a 'not for broadcast' & my username... I see allot of users doing that too.
I don't do twitter/facebook/instagram
 
Jun 14, 2009
327
151
11
Altoona, Iowa
toddrector.com
Any pics I post online (not just weather) have always gotten a watermark of my site username or name.
Any weather-related vids that go on YouTube get a 'not for broadcast' & my username... I see allot of users doing that too.
I don't do twitter/facebook/instagram
A lot of us use a media broker, who automatically watermarks our content before posting it for sale. It saves time and hassle - All I have to do is throw together a short video package and upload it. If I post a pic or video short on twitter or FB, I usually use low resolution and/or extremely short "teaser" clips. Any media inquiries that come in, I simply direct them to my broker. The only time I ever give away good video is long after the fact, or for people using it in a not-for-profit way. I just gave away some tornado footage from last year to someone who is putting together a benefit for the people in the town affected (Marshalltown, IA). I also donate video to stormassist.org every year, but again, long after the video is no longer "news".
 
Jun 16, 2015
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Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
Preface:
There’s a healthy balance between selling footage for pocket change vs. expecting $10,000 for a clip of a tornado. Having discussions like this is helpful, as I think a lot of new chasers or chasers who haven’t sold footage before may not know what to expect. To them, $150 might sound like a lot for a clip of a tornado, but there absolutely are cases that this would be lowballing.

While I do think it’s fair to argue the case that many chasers are selling video for below market value, or even worse, giving it away for free, I wonder if it’s fair to compare television ad rates to storm footage. I’ll play devil’s advocate a bit, since I have worked in TV before.

If we estimate that a 30-second slot averages $50,000, then that’s a rate of $100,000 per minute or $6,000,000 per hour.

How much does Jim Cantore get paid to report live during a hurricane? How much do major networks pay a reporter to go out in the field, live, during a natural disaster, war zone, etc? Think about it.

While ad revenue is a huge cost, consider how much news networks pay anchors, reporters, CEOs, audio/video equipment, other technology fees, even all the camera operators, news directors, control room operators, etc. It’s not sustainable for a news network to dish out tens of thousands of dollars for routine storm chase video.

I realize there are exceptions for truly rare or exceptional video.

What about people who are on the scene for a car crash, house fire, school shooting, etc? Not every single news event captured live is necessarily going to bring in big dollars. Especially now that almost everyone has a smart phone and can upload HD or even 4K footage within minutes of an event taking place. That drives the value down, to some degree.

Chasers have been chasing for decades. Until the past 10 years or so, unless you were a news station in Oklahoma City with a news chopper, as an example, it was pretty rare to capture close range tornado footage, unless you were a skilled storm chaser. (Or very lucky on a one-off) Times have changed now.

If we take @Adam Lucio approximations, a video on YouTube that gets 1,000,000 views makes about $1,000, on the generous end of the spectrum, which lines up close to what @Dan Robinson has estimated. Adam also cited $5/50,000 views, which would amount to just $100 for 1,000,000 views. It depends on context, how quickly the video is uploaded, keywords/SEO, etc.

How many videos actually get 1,000,000 views? We’ve discussed this. It’s not many. Only well-known chasers can average this sort of pull on a regular basis. As we talk about chaser convergence, there’s also convergence at tornadoes, meaning more and more people can produce exceptional storm footage, driving down the cost as such footage becomes less “rare.”

If a drug company advertises a $500 drug and 1,000,000 people watch the ad, let’s say that 0.1% of people who watch the ad seek a prescription. That’s 1,000 customers potentially spending a combined $50,000. I’m not sure this is a worthwhile comparison, but it may explain why you see so many drug commercials and why the ad slots cost so much.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am against chasers raising the bar for their sales revenue standards, but I’d be cautious to overshoot what the real market value is.

It’s hard to really pin down how much footage is worth. Sometimes a major network will turn down an asking price of $250 for a compelling 30-second tornado clip (happened to me with TWC), while others may pay twice that amount for a lower resolution clip that’s 15 seconds long.

There are many factors, including how quickly the footage is uploaded, what connections you have, how well-known of a chaser you are, being at the right place and the right time, etc.
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
On big events there are just to many people happy to have their name shown on TV so they let them have it for free. I try to sell on these days still but hear back "We have enough free stuff so we are not buying." The only real shot is if you get something no else or at least very few people sees like my LA tornado this year. It does help if only chasers see it but a lot of the problem is the new chasers wanting to seem cool. I doubt we can ort will ever change that.
 
I can tell you that a lot of local news stations have a $150 cap on paid video. And they rarely pay, especially with 99% of events being covered by free amateur video. I've heard of stringers getting paid as little as $20 to cover a high school sports event (that's less than minimum wage). The only way to get more than $150 for your video is to go through a media broker. They have requirements though (must be shot on a tripod, must be 1080p+, etc).

As others have said, timing is everything. I take quite a bit of video using my cell phone on a tripod with different lens attachments. I do this because I can edit the video on my cell phone using a $39 app, and have it uploaded to the cloud within 20 minutes of an event. The only limitation to this is a lack of zoom capabilities.

Honestly though... I don't even worry about selling video anymore. I'm out there to enjoy the show God puts on. If something sells, great. But I know its really hard to sell anything these days because of the social media fame mentality. I don't even try unless I have something exclusive, and more and more these days my exclusive video has nothing to do with tornadoes.
 

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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Local TV stations have probably suffered the most from the advertising shift to online, but they still have solid revenues. Plus, most are now owned and backed by big conglomerate companies. Multi-million studio revamps and big daily expenditures like helicopter flights are the norm. I would say local TV is a lost cause for any ENG sales, because *all* of the lowest people on the totem pole there have been suffering for the past 2 decades. Small market reporters and camermen were making minimum wage even before stations started going the "VJ" route (combining the reporter and cameraman jobs into one, doing away with big expensive cams and now shooting on prosumer gear). If you make a good sale with a network, the affiliates can use the video anyway which makes it a moot point in most cases. I have made sales to local TV, but it's been very rare.
 
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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My big question (that will probably make me look ignorant AF) is how do you handle a photo/video sale when approached? Since I have never sold anything before I do not have a broker, and frankly I don't care to have one, especially if they're going to want to take a cut. I suspect I will rarely, maybe once or twice in my lifetime, be approached by someone online with an offer to buy something I have posted. But I'd like to know how to properly respond if/when that happens. Is there a template licensing agreement that people use? Can I write my own? How do you make the sale...via DM on that website? Do you send them a scanned copy of a signed agreement? Is there specific wording you should use?

These are the questions that are most important to me right now. I'll worry about how much the product is worth when I get offered. But first I need to know how to respond.