May 18, 2007
The Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors (ACSIL) has recently completed a study of the worldwide stock footage industry and outlined their findings a very comprehensive and detailed 259- page report entitled "ACSIL Global Survey of Stock Footage Companies 2007".
This report provides an important baseline for further analysis of the footage industry in the future and is a must read for anyone engaged in, or considering entering, this market. As photographers and stock image sellers look to the future it is also important to recognize that the demand for video imagery is likely to increase while the demand for stills may decrease. The report is priced at $750.
ACSIL is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting and advancing the professional interests of the stock footage industry, and its members constitute the major global providers of stock footage. This first-of-its-kind survey is central to the mission of ACSIL: to engage in research, advocacy and information-sharing of and for the stock footage industry.
In addition to its 17 members, ACSIL identified 355 companies worldwide that are engaged to some degree in the licensing of rights to stock footage and they made an effort to survey all of them.
A very detailed long form (LF) survey was mailed to about 100 companies that it was estimated had billings in excess of $500K. 28 of these companies responded to this survey. A simpler online survey (SF) was sent to the other 255 companies and 39 of them responded.
The report comes to the conclusion that the gross revenue for the industry worldwide is $282 million annually, but it is very important to have a clear understanding of the methodology and assumptions that it was necessary to make in order to reach this conclusion.
In the survey companies were not asked to supply exact revenue figures, but instead were given ranges and asked to indicate the range in which their revenue fell. The ranges were: $5 million plus; $1 to $5 million in one-million increments; $500K to $1 million, $100K to $500K and Under $100K.
There was a 19% response rate to the survey, but ACSIL did not come to a worldwide industry estimate by extrapolating from this relatively small response. Instead, through a variety of means they made individual revenue estimates for each of the 355 companies. Revenue for many of the companies was known whether they answered the survey or not. Then each company was assigned a high, low and average revenue estimate based on comparative modeling as well as company size, number of employees, content categories and other factors. Finally, they used the sum of the averages of all 355 companies to produce the overall market-sizing estimate of $282 million. It is estimated that 74% of the 355 companies have annual revenue that was less than $500K and 21% under $100K.
Using the responses of the 19% and a general knowledge of the industry those conducting the survey estimated that six companies have revenue in excess $5 million annually. Not all of these companies were among the 67 that responded to the survey. Though individual company revenues were not disclosed as part of the Global Survey, it is known from other published sources that Getty Images is the largest with footage revenue of $43.19 million in 2006. No more precise figures were given for any of the other companies. Based on their knowledge of the industry the preparers of this report believe that $282 million is an accurate figure for the size of the industry, but they are careful to stress that this figure is an estimate. As noted in the final report "because most footage companies are either, small and closely held or units of much larger organizations, financial statements were, for the most part, unavailable. Ultimately, to arrive at an acceptable sense of the size of the market, an estimation methodology using a bottom up approach was necessary.
One questions asked respondents to rate the most innovative competitors. Not surprisingly Getty Images was rated highest, but among the others were BBC, ITN, Thought Equity, Corbis and Artbeats.
Types Of Footage
Still photographers tend to think of stock footage as primarily clips of people and lifestyle, nature and scenics. However, of the total industry only 31% of the companies generating 37% of the revenue were doing that type of work. Other companies were involved in News & Actualities, Archival, Sports, Natural History, Arts & Performing Arts and Feature Film Clips.
The Stock Footage category includes model released premium images, timelapse, aerials, animations and backgrounds and footage shot for stock. The report shows that over 90% of the available footage of all types was initially shot for other purposes rather than being shot specifically for stock. This is a very important factor for photographers funding the production of stock footage to consider because the market they are addressing is much smaller than the total market. Footage funded on a shot for other purposes where the videographer does not have to recover any of his production investment can be sold at much lower prices (which then tend to set the price level for the industry) and still allow the photographer to realize a profit.
39.3% of the collections reach back to the earliest days of motion picture beginning between 1890 and 1900.
The two largest markets are the U.S and the UK. It is estimated that 60.4% or approximately $170 million of sales comes from 172 U.S companies and 22.5% or approximately $63 million of sales comes from the 86 UK companies for a total of 82.9% of all revenue. Germany, France, Canada and Australia are the next largest user of stock footage.
The top six selling clips in order are: Current Events/Current Politics.; Extreme Weather/ Hurricanes, Tsunamis/Disasters; Lifestyles/Archival; Professional Sports; Celebrities & Icons and Animal Predation/Animal Actions Shots.
Television remains the dominant market for footage providers representing 65.7% of sales of LF respondents. National and local advertising was the second most important market accounting for 10.1% of revenue for LF respondents. Corporate accounted for 7.2% of LF respondents.
The report said, "There does appear to be consensus regarding the most important new/emerging markets. LF companies consider digital technology/new media as the most significant umbrella category. 64.3% of companies cited "Internet Programming". 42.9% cited "Mobile Phones/Handhelds and 14.3% cited "VOD".
Digitization Of Content
The vast majority of LF companies (82.1%) have begun to digitize their collection, but only 7.1% have almost completed their low-res, browse-quality digitization. When it comes to the SF companies only 38% said that they had digitized a significant percentage of their primary collection. It is estimated that 41 companies have an e-commerce web site.
"While most LF companies (53.6%) have no browse-quality low-res digital footage online, a considerable number (21.4%) have 100% of their low-res online." (21.4% would mean the estimate is based on six actual respondents.) "Most LF companies (67.9%) have no broadcast-quality digital footage online." 28.6% (8 responding companies) have100% of their hi-res broadcast-quality footage online.
While almost all companies have a website 59% of SF companies said their "website is mainly a communications and promotional tool."
The detailed information provided relative in the report should be very helpful to anyone contemplating, or engaging in, the digitization of footage content.
Complex License Agreements
In the still photo industry there has been a steady move away from complex license agreements, first with RF and lately with RR and Micropayment and the introduction of PLUS for negotiating rights for RM. The footage industry seems to be faced with the same issue. The report said, "A significant number of LF companies (39%) believe that 'complex license agreements/non-standard rights language' are obstructing the growth of the footage industry as a whole. 25% believe that 'customer ignorance' is the second most obstructive chronic issue. These results, when looked at together, suggest that simplifying procedures such as licensing would help expedite customer education, thereby expanding the market".