An Oregon, man who purchased a dashboard camera found himself in demand after a June 3 road rage incident that ended with a car suspended on the cable stay of a power pole.
The surprise incident became a viral sensation online, and revealed a strange market for such footage.
Mike Mathews, a former video producer who works as an events coordinator at Oregon State University, was waiting to merge into traffic when a late model Chevrolet Malibu blasted out of nowhere, traveling at what Mathews estimates was about 60 mph. It was Mathews’ turn to pull into traffic, which put him behind the driver.
For a couple of blocks the Malibu driver sped up, switched lanes, pumped his brakes, and generally acted aggressively toward Mathews as he followed. Stopped at a light, Mathews said he was prepared for a confrontation when the driver sped off again, this time swerving onto the sidewalk and straight up a power pole cable, trapping the car in a nearly vertical position. (The driver of the car is facing charges of reckless driving, DUII and failure to perform the duties of a driver.)
When Mathews got home and had a look at the video, he said he was “literally dying” with laughter, and so he posted it on his Facebook page and left for a fishing trip.
When he got back on Facebook following the fishing trip, friends asked him to make the footage public. Thinking nothing of it, he changed the setting to let more than just his Facebook friends see it.
“I had no idea about viral videos,” he said.
But he was about to learn.
“When I got to work on Monday, my office phone was full of messages,” he said. The messages were from TV news stations, websites and other media entities from across the world, all asking to purchase his video. Apparently the public footage had gained 5 million views in a 48-hour period.
“It was incredible because they all somehow tracked me down to my work phone number,” he said.
So now Mathews had a bunch of offers for his video, and he decided he’d better educate himself on how such transactions work. Through that process, he found a 3-year-old company out of Bozeman, Montana, called Viral Hog. By Tuesday, he’d signed a contract with them to license the footage for sale on a profit-sharing basis.
“It seemed more advantageous to license it, rather than just selling it to somebody,” he said.
Viral Hog has 12 office employees, and about 20 researchers across the globe, said licensing and contract manager Wendy Sly in a phone interview. The company employs a legal team to verify that the footage in fact belongs to the seller before licensing, and then it sells the rights to the licensed footage for anywhere from $50 to $700, depending on the user and the intended use.
Mathews, like others who contract with Viral Hog, gets 60 percent of each sale. To put that in perspective, the views for his video peaked at about 9 million worldwide. Of course, views are different from licensed content, but Mathews said he is surprised about the windfall.
“I knew it was going to be something,” he said of having captured the crazy incident on camera. “But I had no idea how big it was going to be.”
He also was surprised by the variety of comments, some of them negative, that were posted with the video.
“There are so many opinions,” he said. “From ‘He caused this because he was driving as crazy as the other guy was,’ to ‘He’s just making money off somebody’s misfortune.”‘
Mathews said he warned his family against arguing with people who are posted comments. One friend, he said, warned him that “the internet is a pit of vipers.”
“Now I understand the viral part in viral video,” he said.
But he also understands the pure luck element that comes with having captured such footage and then finding it in such demand. But in terms of quality, as a video producer, he is amazed.
“I’ve spent hundreds of hours shooting video, and hundreds behind an editor,” he said, “but this ridiculous video clip has far exceeded anything else I’ve ever done.”
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