How to License Video Content for Your Internet TV Network

  • What type of licensing?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Where do I go to get licensing?
  • How to License Video Content

When it comes to licensing video content the holy grail is the blanket license. A one time fee, usually a once off or annual fee that covers a broadcast license for hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of video content. For some genres this is the norm and for others you have to look hard to find it.

Blanket License

In the music industry especially for Music Videos the best two places to get a blanket license is ASCAP and BMI which can offer blanket licenses to cover hundreds of thousands if not millions of titles. If you indicate you are a start up with no current revenue it really brings down the prices of your license to a few hundred dollars a year. This can give you an immediate start on your own Music Video channel or however you intend to use the licensing.

Keep in mind that they do not provide the music videos but just the license. You will need to obtain the videos yourself.

When it comes to other video content (TV shows, movies and documentaries) blanket licenses can become much more scarce. The main reason is because, unlike the music industry that has a common agreement to license their content through just a few organizations, the video industry has no such agreements uniting them. Because of production costs can run high and popularity from one movie or TV series to the next can vary widely so does the cost to license content.

However that does not mean that no blanket license exists, it just means they don’t exist on the organizational level (meaning one or two organization formed for such purpose). Instead they exist from one production company to another. For example a production house that produces horror movies may offer one license to cover their last 30 movies. Many deals like this exist you just have to look for them.

One of the best ways to find good deals on licensing content is to call video licensing companies (a really good one is GreenLight) or to attend events like the NAB where you can meet with hundreds of production companies and clearance companies.

Creating a License

A license is an agreement between the creator/owner of the video content and one or more distributors.

The license will detail the intended use of the video content (online, broadcast TV, promotional or corporate). The license can be exclusive to your network or non exclusive (used by more than one distributor).

Typically the license is a written consent that spells out the price and length that the distributor has for online broadcasting. There are several different licensing models that we will discuss in this article.

How much Does a License Cost?

When it comes to video content so many factors play a role and there is not one price that fits all. From TV shows to documentaries, movies, and more…the hotter the item and the larger the audience the more it will cost.

However, licensing for online broadcast is typically less expensive. This does give online TV networks owners an advantage.

When Do I Need a License?

Unless its for non-commercial or private study use then you always need permission to broadcast someone else content on your network. However there are several repositories for public domain content with thousands of movies, documentaries and video content that you can immediately insert into your channel.

Please understand the difference between public domain and royalty free. Public domain means the intellectual property rights have expired or forfeited and the general public has the right to rebroadcast with no payment what so ever. Royalty Free is the right to use copyrighted content without the needs to pay royalties or license fees for each use of the content (or per volume sold). However a upfront one time license fee may or may not be necessary.

Creative Commons License 

On the other hand creative commons licenses is one of several public copyright licenses that allow the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted content or “work”. A creative commons license is generally used when a producer wants to give other people the right to share and use their content (or build upon it).

Here are a few links to some Creative Commons Licenses Repositories:


The content does not even have to be new if you know how to spin it the
right way, in fact that is how the History Channel got started, tons of public domain content from WW2. They added a voice over and made a hit channel all based off old content from the 1940’s.

Fair Use

US copyright law that brief excerpts of copyrighted material may under certain conditions, without the need of payment or permission from the copyright holder, be broadcast by third parties. Typical uses is for NEWS reporting, teaching an research.

Licensing Models: Below are some of the most common forms of licensing you will experience.

Fixed License Fee

The organization can distribute the content for fixed time period within a specific territory. If the content is being broadcast online as a VOD then the licensee is not required to report back to the license granter the success of the program or share any revenue they have received. This is the method Netflix uses to license content.

Revenue Share

The licenses holder shares revenue with the distributor (typically a VOD platform). This is typically a Pay Per View system where a user pays to watch a individual or a series of TV shows, movies or documentaries.

Minimum Guarantee Revenue Share

The licensee agrees to pay a minimum payment (usually upfront) and additional payments should the content perform well or over perform the a set standard in the licensing agreement.

Fixed Pay Per View

This is common to VOD platforms like Hulu – The licensee pays a fixed amount to the owner of the content but on a per view basis – but can offset that expense by making income from advertising.

Stock Videos

Stock video is the perfect choice for documentary-style videos or any other content that features a voiceover. It’s incredibly budget friendly compared to hiring for your own footage and offers an abundance of options from which you can pick. Stock library collections contain professionally shot material taken all over the world, so finding visuals that encapsulate what you have in mind has never been easier!

With high-resolution visuals, stock videos can sometimes be even better than you could produce yourself! So if you’re looking for a creative way to save money, look no further than stock videos to make your next piece of content.

When searching for stock videos, it is essential to be aware of any restrictions or requirements imposed by their video licensing agreement. To ensure that you are adhering to these conditions correctly and avoiding potential problems in the future, pay close attention to each one before using a video.

Some great stock video sites

How to License Video Content

Licensing video content can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The first step is to identify the content you wish to license and determine what kind of licensing agreement you need. Depending on how the content will be used, different licenses may be applicable, such as public domain works or exclusive use rights under copyright law.

Once you know which type of license applies to your situation, research sources or copyright owner for obtaining the material in question. For example, if you plan on using pre-existing footage, you should explore stock video libraries or other online resources where this type of material can be licensed. If you intend to create new video footage for your own.

You can also look for content aggregators or licensing agencies like VideoElephant, a great company with millions of short-form content you can use for your AVOD platforms or FAST channel.

What happens if I don’t license the content?

Typically if you are a smaller organization nothing happens….however you can get removed from platforms like Roku, FireTV and others for not having the proper license documentation. So its always best to keep your content licensed.

Want more to read? Check out The Genisus of Roku