Younger generation of chasers being swindled for weather and storm video

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Jan 14, 2011
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I'll first say that I do not have ironclad proof of the rates some brokerages are charging broadcast clients, but I've heard from enough reliable independent sources that the following is plausible enough to be of concern.

If a broker is selling your video to networks for $150 or less - including even generic snow/rain video, you are being royally swindled. If you are being paid that amount for good tornado video or any type of compelling shot, the level of deception and conning being leveled at you is almost criminal. You are being taken advantage of by both the networks and your broker. Those kind of rates cannot come close to covering your costs of operation, which means you are personally subsidizing the profits of multi-billion dollar corporations who easily could pay you 10 times more.

Don't be conned into thinking that is good money. It is peanuts, it is insulting to you and to every photographer.

I no longer rely on ENG revenue for chasing, thankfully. But I do feel for the newer generation that is being led to believe that making less than $800 total for every national news network on the planet leading their primetime shows with your footage is "good money". How will you feel when the next generation of predatory brokerages starts charging national networks $50 or even $20 and all the new and naive student chasers (through no fault of their own, I don't blame them) raving about how "great" that money is?

You have to also think long-term. You can easily make $150/video by working on getting your Youtube channel monetized and exclusively posting video there, which will earn money for years to come. Not every video will go viral, but if one out of 20 does, you will do better than the absolute joke of the rates you are being sold on now. Every copy that you sell for $150 will torpedo your Youtube copy if it does end up doing well. These days, with a good-performing Youtube channel, you may be better off in many cases to not sell to networks or third parties at any price if it means a permanent competing copy is going to be available for viewing on competing sources.

Your video leading the nightly news broadcast of a major network should demand a premium price, not less than the janitors are being paid to clean toilets at a gas station. I know that with the rise of viewer video and cell phones that competition is worse, but the networks have the money to pay a premium for what is often leaps and bounds better quality material from a chaser. Look at all the news studios being renovated. Look up how much it costs to fly a Bell JetRanger for traffic reports. They have the money to pay for content, it is their primary product that earns them revenue. Holy cow, they are often leading nightly news with your video and you're getting $150 for that?

Part of the con is to make you feel like "it's better than nothing". That is pure manipulation. These vultures don't have your best interest at heart, only their bottom line. $150 to do ANYTHING for a multi-billion dollar corporation is appalling. That's a minimal consulting fee for a 30 minute phone call, not driving across the country for days on end to capture compelling footage for a primetime broadcast. You have to stand firm and if you don't make a sale, you don't make a sale. I pass on a dozen sales a year! Let them use the vertical shaky video from Joe Blow on his front porch if that's what they want.

Sell to who you want, through who you want. It's your choice. But at least be aware at how badly you are being taken advantage of by people who make their living and even their fortune off of your hard work, while you take a financial loss. It's easy to think that $150/video is good money when you're young and don't know any better. I guarantee once you grow older and realize the value of your time and what you are giving away, and the fortunes made by big corporations off of it, you will be absolutely livid at what has been done to you.

If I was in the position of someone who has been conned like this, I'd end my brokerage contract as soon as it was up and look for someone else that has the spine to stand up to the vultures in the industry (and isn't one themselves) to get me respectable rates.
 
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^^^this this this! The problem I have encountered is that the folks selling/ giving away their video did not see the revenue possibilities-and then when they realized what they could be making they didn't care. They seemed to be more interested in social media "likes" for whatever that's worth (absolutely ZERO). IN short, they wanted a minute or two of fame and don't care about the money...it's sad.
 
Is this because the dumb millenials are getting swindled and corporations are taking advantage of their stupidity, or is it just that supply has driven the price down? I don't know how much of this is because of the former. I think everyone and their mom having a smartphone capable of taking 4K video contributes to this quite a bit. Quite often on a lot of chase days the best video is coming from farmer Bob who is cluelessly 10 yards away as it hurls the roof of his barn at him, who then proceeds to give his video away for free to every major network. I do agree that the video that media platforms are buying is worth more than they are paying for it, but not sure how much of that is attributed to younger stupidity, supply of video for free, or broker's swindling their clients.
 
From what I have heard from multiple sources, brokerages in question are intentionally giving networks dirt-cheap rates to disrupt/gain dominance in the weather/chasing broker market, and using unwitting chasers to that end who don't know what video is worth. Even with a glut of cell phone video, the business model will only sustain if there continues to be a supply of new chasers to take advantage of. Viewer cell phone video is disruptive but not insurmountable to ENG.
 
Interesting info.
I would have no idea what it'd be worth! $150 .sounds. like a decent amount....good to know its not.

I have nothing weather-related on YouTube, other than a thunder/lightning-storm from years ago, and some snow/trees swaying in the breeze from that 'bomb cyclone' thing this year (in both cases boring stuff .lol. ). If I ever got anything 'good' like a tornado, I wouldn't be looking to make money, or even get tons of "likes". I'd post it simply because I think storms are fascinating/cool to watch.
 
This is something I knew I should charge for, but I honestly, don't know the rate I can safely charge. I have looked some, but was unable to find "recommended rates". Is there a place where I can find such average rates (and then adjust based on quality, etc).
 
My broadcast ENG rates:

Generic weather b-roll (snow/rain/fog etc): $250-$300/network, 30 day license max, no Youtube
Severe weather (lightning, hail, general tornadoes, flooding): $350-$600 per network, 30 day max, no Youtube
Premium severe weather: dramatic tornadoes, icy roads action, large hail, hurricanes, close lightning, dramatic/unusual lightning: $600-$1500 or more per network, 10 day license max, no online copies

My stock footage rates are here:


These might vary a little from chaser to chaser, but I suspect those of us who have been doing this for a long time have settled on numbers around these. I don't negotiate much on these numbers if at all. If someone insists on lowballing, I pass and say to them good luck.

If you chase regularly, whether you want to sell video or not, you WILL be approached for offers for video purchases. It's how I got started in stock and ENG -they contacted me first, I then learned as I went.

Disclaimer: I'm not suggesting you adopt these rates. This is to give you an idea of what I have received for video historically and what I still charge.
 
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The generic video does not sell well these days. Higher end video does, especially if you are the only source. Hardest days to make a sale are in the Plains on big days when there are a lot of videos coming in, but even more so due to the lowballing brokers. But even then, I will not lowball to make a sale. I rarely sell anything during Plains chase trips. Most of my sales are winter and Midwest.
 
I’m guessing I fall into this younger generation of chasers (late 20s). In my 15 years of documenting weather and roughly 10 on social media, I have only once been contacted to sell my footage. I’m usually not in a hurry to post-process footage, nor do I have the ability to do it quickly, so by the time I’m able to release anything to the world, it’s “old news”. The one time I guess I did have an opportunity was earlier this year during a snow storm in St. Louis. I went out with my wife to walk the ~quarter mile from our apartment to the highway just to see what traffic looked like. I took two pictures with my cell phone of the mess I saw and posted them to Twitter. I was approached by several media outlets for use of the pictures (for free), and after giving it some thought, I said yes. Why? Because I put zero effort into capturing those photos. It was nothing remarkable (IMO), and I took them with my cell phone while walking in my neighborhood. I couldn’t have cared less about any fame that it would have got me (I knew it would be nothing), and I don’t care about any funds it would have earned me. The only thing that made me second guess my move at the time was what I’ve seen here and elsewhere about this exact topic.

Earning money from chasing or capturing footage of weather was the farthest thing from my mind when I started chasing. It wasn’t until 2013 when I started to wade into the “chasing community” that I realized people can (or, use to) make money from their footage. I started doing what I do because I think storms, tornadoes, and whatever other weather can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and I want to capture that. And because I think what I see is cool, I feel the need to share it with others that might feel the same and that weren’t there to witness it in person. I will never seek out money for my footage, and I’d be willing to bet I won’t change my mind on that. If I happen to be contacted by a media outlet wanting to use my work that I put effort into, then sure, I may work out a deal. But in the end, I don’t care about earning money from it and I don’t care about “likes”.

Completely innocent and curious inquiry: For a typical chaser, their footage is their footage; thus, is it not theirs to do with as they please? The value someone puts into something they make is always going to be dependent upon the individual. Sure, there may be a market value for a certain type of footage, but it is still up to that individual to determine what it is worth. Therefore, Joe Stormchaser could give their footage away for free all day if they want to. Now, for those who get upset by that fact, is it simply the principle of the matter? Or is it because if Joe Stormchaser gives away their footage for free, then Jane Stormchaser, who has similar footage and wants to make money, is going to lose out because any media source is obviously going to go with the cheaper option?
 
Everyone can do as they wish. My aim is to educate everyone so that decision can be an informed one. If someone decides they want to give footage away even after knowing what the typical going rate is, he or she is free to do it. I would guess that most people could use a few extra hundred dollar or even thousand dollar bonus from capturing something newsworthy. The networks can certainly afford to pay it.

My rates are based on what I figured to be a fair compensation after considering my expenses. For example, I spend money on better gear so I can have a better end product. I also chase more during winter weather, something I would not normally do as much of. I rarely make anything from Plains chase trips, I do that for the same reason I always have: I love chasing.
 
Everyone can do as they wish. My aim is to educate everyone so that decision can be an informed one. If someone decides they want to give footage away even after knowing what the typical going rate is, he or she is free to do it. I would guess that most people could use a few extra hundred dollar or even thousand dollar bonus from capturing something newsworthy. The networks can certainly afford to pay it.

My rates are based on what I figured to be a fair compensation after considering my expenses. For example, I spend money on better gear so I can have a better end product. I also chase more during winter weather, something I would not normally do as much of. I rarely make anything from Plains chase trips, I do that for the same reason I always have: I love it.

I do appreciate all the work you put into information like this and copyright laws, Dan. Everyone has their reason for doing what they do, and I absolutely respect those who do try to make money from their footage. I imagine it adds more work to chasing than people think, which is why I don't bother seeking it out. It bothers me when I see people bash and mock (usually on social media--not here) those who give footage away for free or cheap. I'm sure there are those who know they can make money but just do it for the quick hit of "fame", but I'm sure there are a lot who just don't know what they can make from what they have.
 
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From what I have heard from multiple sources, brokerages in question are intentionally giving networks dirt-cheap rates to disrupt/gain dominance in the weather/chasing broker market, and using unwitting chasers to that end who don't know what video is worth. Even with a glut of cell phone video, the business model will only sustain if there continues to be a supply of new chasers to take advantage of. Viewer cell phone video is disruptive but not insurmountable to ENG.

Hey Dan. Agree with you it's discouraging to see pricing take a hit when it hurts our bottom line. Yes, there are skeezy operators churning and burning ignorant chasers and it should p.o. anyone with a conscience, but that's also a mechanism in every market helping to keep prices down. Truth is, you and me reward that same ethic every time we shop at Walmart. Personally, I really loathe the media but I have to say there's NO COLLUSION on buying videos at the cheapest possible price. Can't turn markets back to previous conditions any more than we can convince people to embrace older technology - the best thing is to move forward and figure out whether we can do something different or better to avoid price erosion. Otherwise, time to get creative and find a new way to pay the bills. That doesn't necessarily have to come directly from chasing either. So yeah it sucks, but that's what markets do and we all love it when we're on the buying side, right?
 
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