CNN takes care of independent shooters at

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Taking Care of Business
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Old June 28th, 2005, 11:30 PM   #1
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CNN takes care of independent shooters

I don't know if this is a local (Atlanta), nationwide or worldwide policy for CNN but this is what I was told. CNN usually has a sharing arrangement with most local affilliates for the use of footage, providing or receiving it. If CNN purchases your footage, they will enact a policy called a local TV Market Embargo. What this does is to allow the original owner of the footage to sell it to CNN and continue to own the rights to sell it to any other outlet in addition to CNN in or outside that local market. They will not share the footage with any of the local affiliates in the market where the footage was shot unless allowed by the owner. This gives the original owner the ability to sell it to as many other outlets as desired thereby increasing profitibility. Now, they will share it with affilliates in other markets nationwide unless specifically told not to do so. I'm sure if the footage is just absolutely hot, there are complete buyouts for absolute ownership. That's where you would negotiate for a complete buyout. I think that's a really nice thing to do for independents considering that they are not obligated to do it.
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Old July 5th, 2005, 08:27 PM   #2
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I don't know if times have changed but..

if it is a big news piece, the kind you dream about. BE PRE-pared to lose control. If it is a lead, the other nets and stations will steal it. You have no control over this, you have to sue each violation. Unless you shoot the Kennedy assasination then you might not be able to sue enough people to make money.

CNN is not guaranteeing they will fight for you, they just will not put it on the newsource feed for the next 24 hours, only for your local market. It is called down on the squack box as embargoed for that market. I have worked for local producers who did not care if it was embargoed, they would just play it and play dumb when the national desk called with a complaint. Just consider the $125 as total payment and if you can work a deal beyond that then you are defying gravity.

CNN is a very honest organization. They have the best group of folks to field freelance video, they have a strategy and budget to accomodate the freelance shooter BUT you have to deal with reality. FOX, MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, ALL THE INTERNATIONAL Nets. They will all use your footage, claim ignorance. Try sueing them, it will not work. Good Luck, one tough way to earn a dime unless you ae lucky. IMO

One way of looking at it is the distribution point. If you sell 1 tape you can control it better than if you put if up on a bird with 3000 subs rolling tape, chances are they will use it with or without an embargo.

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Old July 5th, 2005, 10:02 PM   #3
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I have shot news for the Atlanta affilliates a few times so I know how frustrating the game is, and believe me, it is a game. You really do need to know how to negotiate with these characters and be prepared to just walk away instead of giving it to them for free or next to free. Another headache is getting past the interns that answer the phone and don't have a clue because they don't make the decisions but they could prevent you from talking to the right person that does.

I guess I defied gravity this past week because I did sell my footage of a plane crash in northwest Georgia to CNN for $300.00 and also sold it to the local ABC affiliate for $300.00 as well. Not too bad for 3 hours of work. Knowing that CNN would get it anyway with their sharing agreement with local affiliates, they said they would purchase it anyway. I didn't argue. Any different agency that uses it should have to pay. That's the way it should be.

Now, compelling, exclusive footage is a very different situation. The only reason that I was able to get that amount was because I was the only shooter on the ground. All other footage was from the air shooting the tops of trees but they got the air rescue really nicely.

The major, reputable news organizations are really careful about airing and distributing footage with certain terms attached. I was told that the person who shot the Rodney King footage received around $100,000 from ABC because of sharing violations. My experience with these folks is them asking for exclusivity in order to offer the largest payout. That's fine with me. If they offer a ridiculously low amount I will walk with my only loss being time. But, they ain't gettin' it for free or next to free. That kind of footage is only good for 24 hours anyway before it's old news so you have to make decisions fast or they will move on. I just couldn't believe that CNN didn't care who I sold it to in addition to them even though it wasn't a really high profile news story. Fox News Channel was also interested but declined and got to watch it on CNN the next morning, ha ha ha. You should have heard the producer's tone change when they called me back with their decision only to find that CNN had bought it.

I am aware that there is going to be feed stealing going on. There's just no way to control that. But, the major, reputable networks are not going to make a mistake like intentionally violating a written agreement with specific terms. A good entertainment lawyer will punish them for it.

I don't know about other markets, but all I did was call the CNN news desk in Atlanta a few years ago and gave them my contact info and city and they put me on their independent shooter list. However, when I call them about something that I have, they never ask if I am on their list. Apparently their list is for them to use if they need additional shooters or ones in a remote area for something they need covered.

Last edited by James Emory; July 6th, 2005 at 01:56 PM.
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