Getty Facing Possible Debt Ratings Cut By Moody’s

Posted on 9/11/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Getty Images rising debt compared to earnings (EBITDA) is worrying debt investors. Moody’s is reviewing the company to determine if they need to lower their Rating of the company’s debt.

Getty has $2.6 billion in outstanding debt including an approximate $1.9 billion term loan that has been falling in price and was trading at 93.63 cents on the dollar last week. In addition they have $550 million of 7% notes due October 2020 that traded at 89.19 cents on the dollar last week and $150 million line of credit.

Getty’s revenue has been in steady, slow decline for the last few quarters. For the year ending June 30, 2013 revenue was $897 million. For the year ending March 31, 2013 it was $907 million and for calendar 2011 Getty’s revenue was $945 million. Back in 2007 Getty’s revenue was $857.6 million. In 2007 Goldman Sacks estimated Getty’s revenue would reach $1,187 million in 2012.

The biggest concern is iStockphoto (now referred to by Getty as Midstock, not microstock). Revenue for this division fell 9% in Q2 2013 compared to the same quarter a year earlier and now represents about one-third of Getty’s total revenue. Revenue overall has only declined about 5% since the end of 2011.

To reverse the trend Getty needs to find a way to stop losing iStock customers, many that have gone to Shutterstock. In 2010 they had in the range of 25 million downloads. Today they are down to around 10 million.

Getty’s strategy to reverse this trend seems to be:
    1 – To build up Thinkstock as a serious competitor to Shutterstock.
    2 – To offer non-exclusive images on iStock at half price.
    3 – To capture the business of most new entrants into the market.
    4 – To cut costs overall.
Issue 1- Previously we have argued here and here why building up Thinkstock is a strategy that is unlikely to work.

Issue 2 – At the end of June Getty eliminated The Agency Collection, the highest priced images on iStockphoto and moved those imaged to lower, but still expensive price points. This likely affected less than 10% of the exclusive images on iStock. In early July they announced that they were slashing the prices in half for all non-exclusive images. It will probably be the end of September or October before we get much of an indication if this strategy is bringing customers back to iStock. Many contributors report weak sales in July and August, but there are not enough data points to make a definitive judgment.

On the other hand, since Getty cut the price in half of at least half the images on its site. These images have generated 30% of its revenue. Sales of those images would have to at least double just for revenue to stay even. As part of this promotion Getty has ordered its search returns to heavily pushing its Exclusive images that are still at the same high prices customers have been complaining about.

Many former customers who stopped buying iStock images did so because they thought the prices were too high. If they return now they will still find the prices too high on most of the images they see. I suspect they will quickly leave the site believing Getty has tried to lure them with false advertising.

Issue 3 – Getty seems to believe that because more images are being used online there are many new image users entering the market. I believe the number of new users is relatively flat, for the most part replacing users that have dropped out of the market. Those still buying may be using more images, but it is unclear that they are actually spending more in total for the images they use.

Issue 4 – When it comes to cutting costs Getty has a serious problem. In order for strategy “1” to have any chance of success, they must increase their marketing budget dramatically. They have no production cost except in the editorial area. Thus, the only thing left to cut is staff and operational cost.

They have been cutting these costs for some time. In many areas the remaining staff appears to be overworked and no longer operating at peak efficiency. They have replaced higher salaried staff with those with less experienced in an effort to save money. This has resulted in customer service problems and dissatisfaction among contributors.

Other Option - The only remaining cost to cut is the royalties paid contributors. But, Getty has already cut these dramatically. For more than half their contributor they offer the lowest royalties in the industry.  Additional cuts will simply chase contributors away and further reduce the quality of their offering.

Copyright © 2013 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 301-461-7627, 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:  


  • Insy Shah Posted Sep 15, 2013
    Why am I not surprised.

  • Anders Lusth Posted Sep 20, 2013

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