Business

The Association That Brings Stock Footage Back to Life

The Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors, a trade group representing firms that sell historic stock imagery or footage, is seeing its industry quickly expand in an age when online video consumption is reaching a peak. Among those benefiting from this growth? Your local PBS station.

Public broadcasting is known for finding diamonds in the rough and resurfacing their value. Every so often, the long-running Antiques Roadshow happens to unearth an heirloom whose value is far higher than its owner was ever expecting.

As it turns out, public television stations are sitting on some valuable antiques of their own. In recent years public-broadcasting hubs such as WNET (New York City), WTTW (Chicago), and WGBH (Boston) have been selling their old content as stock footage. Back in April, for example, WNET  launched a snazzy new image-licensing site that highlights its wide-reaching arts content, particularly from the civil rights era.

And the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, an umbrella organization for public television stations, has a repository of its own, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, which it also launched in April.

Helping these stations and others resurface this content is the Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors (ACSIL), a trade group that represents stock- and archival-footage sellers and resellers. Among the organization’s members are public broadcasters, wire services such as the stock-photo agency Getty Images, documentary image repositories, and HBO Archives.

Each of these organizations, and more, took part in ACSIL’s first Footage Expo, held in April.

History Worth Preserving

There’s plenty of reason to keep a close eye on this space—because it’s growing, fast. Earlier this year the association announced that the industry represents a $550 million global business, a 40 percent increase from 2011.

”Big companies are getting bigger and smaller companies are growing too,” ACSIL Co-President Clara Fon-Sing said in a statement. “While the industry is in transition with increased demand for footage on one hand and democratization of content on the other, the vast majority of companies surveyed are expecting revenue to grow and are planning to expand.”

Public media companies are finding that footage that may seem a little pedestrian on its own—say, clips of pristine farmlands—is proving to be of immense value. Even smaller stations, such as Sacramento-based KVIE, are earning a couple thousand dollars per month from such footage.

“We’re looking to increase that in the future as we provide more material,” KVIE Producer Jim Finnerty told the public-media news site Current.org.

Stock Considerations

Not that this footage is always easy to gather and find. Generally, the digitization process can be labor-intensive, and even when footage is available in digital format, it’s not always clear who owns the rights to the video and audio being sold.

“So many archival sales are done every year throughout the world without any issue,” ACSIL Executive Director Matthew White said to Current.org. “What scares people is the threat of litigation. But that really is the exception.”

But for organizations that have ample video or image-based content with strong cultural value, the potential could be strong with the right level of interest—especially considering that more sources than ever are on the hunt for stock footage.

“The footage market is booming right now, and it’s a great time to get involved,” White added.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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