The CNN Collection – Compelling and Vast

Bobby Dicks, Director of Sales & Licensing at the CNN Collection, talks with us about all things CNN that a researcher needs to know.

The CNN Collection encompasses over 35 years of footage. Tell us a bit about what sets this collection apart and what keeps it that way?

It is true that for more than three and a half decades CNN has covered and continues to report on major newsworthy events both in the US and internationally. Consequently, the CNN Collection curates and archives some of the most compelling footage from around the globe – this includes ‘exclusive’ branded video, b-roll, and archival footage. In addition to our editorial collection, we license cinematic b-roll from some of CNN’s original series. Our team of skilled professionals specializes in serving the footage needs of fiction and non-fiction storytellers – in every medium – helping establish and frame their narrative in rich and creative ways.

Do you see any parallels in the challenges facing still collections and the challenges motion collections deal with? Shrinking budgets, ubiquitous material, declines in quality? How are you and your team addressing this?

The barrier to entry of creating the type and quality of curated, motion content that the CNN Collection provides remains fairly high as compared to content in still and motion archives that find themselves becoming commoditised. With budgets, our team’s focus is to work really hard at helping productions license footage with the correct rights package – which often enables our clients to actually get more content with the already squeezed budgets they may be working with.

How do you work with projects that require talent and property releases?

We review requests on a case by case basis and take many parameters into consideration before approving or denying these requests. We tend to start with the who, what, and why. We then dig deeper into the contextual use of the content and address any other questions as needed.

Technology evolves so quickly – how are you staying ahead of the curve with the latest innovations and customers’ wide range of needs?

From a user experience standpoint, we’ve focused heavily on removing technological barriers for our customers and giving footage researchers the ability to quickly find, preview, and download the right type of footage for their project on our website – where licensing footage is possible with just a credit card. For larger projects with more sophisticated footage requirements, our clients collaborate with our team of licensing and research professionals who have intimate knowledge of our collection and advanced research technologies. We offer our customers editorial and commercial footage in various fidelities including archival quality, High Definition (HD), and 4K – all available via digital delivery. In addition to our core collection, we offer a variety of shots to fit different customers’ visual storytelling needs including: aerial, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), time-lapse, iReport, and more. We’ve found that even the most compelling content and evolved tech must be bundled with top notch customer service and user experience – and that’s what we provide.

Social Media and UGC – how does it figure in your business and what are your thoughts about its impact on the commercial content licensing world?

We’ve engaged citizen journalists (or, as we call them, CNN iReporters) who often have immediate access to developing news and generate very compelling and unique visual content. When our clients’ story requires that “first-person” look, we draw on our iReport collection to help productions visually tell their story in a way that is reflective of today’s world, which is dominated by mobile phones and user generated content.

Would love to know about some of the favorite usages of your material – I understand you contributed to Oscar winning documentary ‘CitizenFour’? Best loved clips? Little known gems?

We have contributed to many high profile television shows, films, advertisement campaigns, and public displays. Here are just a handful of our favorites: “Ghostbusters”; “House of Cards” ; “The Martian” ; “Straight Outta Compton” ; HBO’s “Confirmation” ; “PBS Frontline” ; ESPN’s “30 for 30” series; 9/11 Museum; Newseum; and Oklahoma City Bombing Museum.


How does your team and customer base work with your transcripts? Seems like an invaluable research tool.

Many of our clients are professional researchers and prefer to do footage mining themselves, so we try to enable them with as many tools as possible. Some of these tools include: transcripts, our youtube channel, our website advanced search,, and the capability to submit a custom research request directly to our team of researchers. All these tools are also available to the general public and enables us to pin-point the exact footage our customers are seeking.

How is CNN Collection poised to supply material and meet the needs during this election cycle?

Whether on cable TV or on the web, CNN is synonymous with politics, and this is reflected in our viewership ratings, online visitors, etc. Our clients count on our politics archive not only for the latest in political footage including CNN exclusive interviews but also archival footage of key players and events in the political arena. Here’s one creative use of our footage in a Facebook online ad campaign:

What else would you like us to know about CNN Collection?

The ‘CNN Collection’ archive draws on coverage which spans from the early 1980s through today’s biggest global and local news events. With our vast, global newsgathering network (42 editorial operations around the world) and with our local news affiliates, we’re able to license a wide variety of topical content across popular categories like crime and justice, weather, military, politics and many more. A large portion of the ‘CNN Collection’ library is digitized and available in High Definition (HD) with the remaining library available in archival quality via digital delivery. We also offer editorial and commercial content in 4K fidelity, stunning aerial and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) shots, and beautiful time-lapse footage. On our website,, we make available (for free!) comps that storytellers can download and use before deciding to license that final, perfect shot. When working with the ‘CNN Collection’ team, customers can count on our subject/mater experts with 90+ years of collective experience in the archive/licensing business.

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