The NLE sales surprise no-one predicted?
One thing that fascinates me are numbers: not for their own sake, but for what they reveal. While re-reading John Buck’s excellent Timelines2 (recommended reading for anyone who is interested in the history of the NLE, volume 2 takes us just past the release of Final Cut Pro 1) I came across some interesting numbers, particularly juxtaposed with a Beat.tv post titled Adobe Claims “Industry Leadership” in Video Editing with 2.5 Million Users. Remembering that Apple have claimed 2 million “seats” of Final Cut Pro (1-7). And I’m pretty sure Avid have sold a few copies of Media Composer, Sony copies of Vegas, and Grass Valley aren’t in the Edius business for giggles. So, somewhat more than 2 million NLE users in our modern world.
What fascinates me about that is that John Buck quotes Final Cut Pro 1 Product Manager Andrew Baum – in April 1999 at the launch of FCP 1 – as explaining to the press:
The 60 million websites out there are going to be 60 million broadcast stations. Apple can realistically sell 25,000 units worldwide, at full price, by 2001.
So, in two years from April 1999, Apple expected to sell 25,000 units of Final Cut Pro 1. By July 2009, Phil Schiller stated that there were 1.4 million “and 50 percent of the market”. At the expected rate of 25,000 units in two years, the extrapolation would be 125,000 in 10 years, but it was more than 10 times that amount. (Now, that figure takes into account sales of Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Cinema Tools and Compressor when they were stand-alone, and it also includes Final Cut Express sales.)
At the NAB 2011 Supermeet, Apple announced “2 million seats” of Final Cut Pro and associated apps.
Also from Timeline 2, on January 27, 1998 from Media 100’s CFO of the day Peter Rice to analysts:
We see a big NT growth opportunity, and at the same time we intend to uphold our success on Macintosh, the platform upon which we have build our current installed base over 16,000 Media 100 users. This milestone makes Media 100 systems the most popular and widely used on the entire planet.
Media 100 estimated that the PC market would be three times the size of the Mac: or 48,000 or so. Media 100 never got that sort of penetration on the PC side, but I think ultimately got close to the 50,000 combined user base, mostly Mac users.
In 1998, 16,000 sales made you the “most popular and widely used on the entire planet.” Well, as long as you exclude Premiere, which had sold some 300,000 units by April 1998. I note that with significant caveats: most Premiere units were sold in OEM bundles, and it wasn’t unusual for a single user to be responsible for 3-4 “Premiere sales” as they upgraded their hardware.
Media 100 were also claiming in 1998, that they had more sales than Avid with Media Composer. I also find that plausible.
But fast forward another ten years and Adobe claim 2.5 million seats of Premiere Pro, Apple still have likely 1.5 million users on Final Cut Pro Classic and an unknown number of Final Cut Pro X seats. Media Composer could have as many as 300,000 seats but recent thinking makes me believe that is unlikely. I find nothing odd about Adobe’s claim either. I’ve been an Adobe customer longer than I’ve been a Final Cut Pro customer. In fact, I’d suggest that almost every Final Cut Pro seat is also an Adobe Premiere seat simply because buying the Production Studio is the least expensive way of buying any two of the apps in the suite! So, for Photoshop and After Effects (with Illustrator also in common use) there’s an install of Premiere Pro as well, used or not.
Now that’s a great thing for Adobe because it’s really easy to test drive an application that’s already likely installed!
Overall, I’m inclined to think the current NLE market for professional editing tools (excluding consumer tools like those Avid just sold) – Edius, Vegas, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Media Composer and Premiere Pro – is something like the 2.5 million total with almost 100% overlaps.
I also hypothesize that most of those seats of most of those applications are not in every day use, but still, there’s an enormous difference between expecting to sell less than 25,000 seats in your two years, and 2 million seats being in place 12 years later.
Or Media 100’s expectation of a “total market” of around 65,000 including Mac and PC markets, and 2.5 million installs of Premiere Pro on Mac and PC.
Something unforeseen changed. Josh Mellicker (DV Creators, MOD Machine) posted an anecdote in a comment that perhaps indicates that Apple were surprised by the democratization that their tool helped create.