Corbis Subscription Pricing

Posted on 3/17/2001 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



March 17, 2001

Corbis plans to introduce subscription pricing later this spring. Their entire 30,000

image royalty free library will be available on a subscription basis and customers

will have access to the full 50MB files for any use whatsoever. There are no plans at

this time to use this type of pricing for any of the images in the licensed


They have joined with WAM!NET, a leading provider of information technology and

digital content management services, to offer images on a subscription basis to

corporations, publishers, advertising agencies and other creative professionals.

Corbis's images will be stored within WAM!NET's centralized, off-site storage service

for digital assets, WAM!BASE, and accessible through either the Internet or customer

premise equipment-based connection to WAM!NETœs secure IP network.

Pricing has not been finalized, but Corbis says they will be about the same as what

customers would pay if they were to purchase the full library on CD. The customer

advantages are that they will be able to pay a small monthly fee, rather than one

large lump sum; they get access to an easily searchable database and they will receive

continuing updates.

Corbis provided the following example as an aid to understanding their pricing


    Currently, if a customer were to purchase the entire Corbis Royalty-Free CD

    library for 15 users that would be a $100K purchase, and Corbis would deliver the

    content on CD.

    With the WAM!NET service the customerœs monthly payment will be based on a percentage

    of the total cost of what they have licensed. Using the $100K example above, the

    customer would pay a monthly fee for a year that would add up to a total of 80-90

    percent of total normal cost of CD's. The discount is an incentive to buy in. The

    online nature of Wam!Net saves Corbis the cost of producing the CDs, so it is about a


    The 90 percent rate would mean a payment of $7,500 per month for 12 months. This is a

    much more palatable cost than a big chunk like $100K all at once. For further client

    commitments of a second and third year, a further discount would be offered as an

    incentive for long-term use and payment. Content will be regularly refreshed.

It is conceivable that Corbis could earn more from these images, if they maintain the

prices described above, than by selling CD's. Once they get into a second year with a

customer that customer is paying more than if they had bought the discs outright and

received all rights, forever, to the images on the disc. Large users may be willing to

go along with this for the added convenience the online system offers, even though it

costs them more in the end.

There will undoubtedly be pressure from customers to lower the monthly fee so they

don't really pay the full cost of discs until 24 months, or longer. After all, if they

purchase the disc and upload it to their in-house system they get unlimited rights


It may be difficult for photographers, or other sellers, to determine what the actual

prices are for these usages because each deal is likely to be individually negotiated

depending on the number of users within the company, and the type of use. Everyone in

the industry should try to keep a very close watch on how these prices eventually

develop. This pricing model could have a major impact on the ease of acquiring content

and the prices large users are willing to pay for other types of content.

Look for other Royalty Free producers to join WAM!NET, if the Corbis deal is not

exclusive, or to offer similar deals, with access to even a greater number of images,

through other online suppliers.

Corbis says customers with narrow interests will also be able to subscribe to sections

of the file. For example some customers may only be interested in "business,"

"family," "entertainment" or "nature and wildlife." Corbis has not defined what the

section breakdowns might be. A lot of this may be left to individual negotiations

with each user.

Photographers will be compensated in the same way they have up to now in terms of disc

sales. They will receive a fee proportional to their total image share of the customer

buy. This could produce some very strange numbers. Photographers may not be given any

idea of how long each subscription is scheduled to run.

It is hard to see how this "subscription" model could be extended to the Rights

Protected images unless the price is based on a certain fixed number of uses, with

possibly a discount for certain guaranteed volume. In any event, it gets much more

complicated when the price is based on use and individual uses must be recorded.

Copyright © 2001 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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