2008 Market Size: Revenues by Image Type

Posted on 4/15/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Of the $1.8 billion in total revenues from licensing still imagery, about $1.1 billion comes from images that are used for commercial purposes. The remaining $700 million accounts for editorial uses, which include breaking news and secondary uses.

The latter are typically licensed by long lead-time publications, specialist niche publications and books. For these uses, images needed are more feature oriented and illustrate points that have no direct tie to any breaking news. Corbis CEO Gary Shenk, estimated this market segment to be larger than the breaking news segment.

The figures in Table 1 are rough estimates of the 2008 stock-photo revenue, by type of imagery, generated by Getty Images, Corbis, Jupiterimages, Superstock, Alamy and the international wire services. These numbers were used as the basis for the $1.8 billion total stock-licensing revenue, which also includes an estimate of the earnings of the rest of the industry.

Table 1. Estimated 2008 stock-licensing revenue by company ($US millions)
Type of imagery Revenue by company Total
Getty Images Corbis Jupiterimages Superstock Alamy Wires
Commercial RM 220 90 15 3 4   332
Commercial RF 221 33 52 2 3   311
Microstock 145 3         148
Subscription     28       28
Breaking news 160 20       175 355
Secondary editorial 40 65   5 24 75 209
Note: The figures were derived from several sources. In 2007 Getty, Jupiterimages and Superstock were public companies and some of their financials were publicly available. Though private, Corbis also made certain gross numbers available a couple years ago. Alamy, also private, has disclosed revenue figures since 2004. The above estimates endeavor to account for major 2008 acquisitions and other factors, extrapolating from earlier figures.

Table 2 presents Goldman Sachs’ analysis of Getty Images revenue and future potential. Though made well before the economic crash, these estimates are interesting in view of the relative future potential of creative stills and microstock. Goldman Sachs expected the traditional side of Getty’s business to decline by 38% in five years, while its microstock revenue grew to be 3.63 times larger.

Table 2. Getty Images revenues (2007) and revenue estimates by Goldman Sachs (2008–2012) (US$ millions)
Product line 2007 2008 2012
Creative stills 561 461 348
Editorial 138 180 289
iStockphoto 72 122 262
Footage and multimedia 43 47 83
Other 43 77 159
B2B music   14 46
Total 858 901 1187

Though Goldman Sachs expected editorial-image, particularly celebrity-photo revenues to grow, much of this growth was due to Getty acquisitions around the time this analysis was conducted and not a reflection of the true potential growth for the industry. In contrast, Goldman Sachs’ microstock predictions—of iStockphoto revenue exceeding $262 million by 2012—are holding true; iStock should easily achieve this figure. If current microstock growth continues, total sales of microstock and subscription images will easily exceed $500 million and be the largest segment of the still stock photo business.

Table 3. Estimated 2008 stock-licensing revenue by type of imagery (US$ millions)
Type of imagery Total revenue Major players' share of revenue*
$ %
Commercial RM 425 332 78%
Commercial RF 350 311 88%
Microstock 265 148 56%
Subscription 60 28 47%
Breaking News 359 355 99%
Secondary Editorial 341 209 69%
Total 1,800 1,383  
* Major players are the companies listed in Table 1.

The figures in Table 3 are estimates of how total 2008 still-image revenues broke down by type of imagery. Note that 77% of all industry revenue was generated by five major companies and wire services. Skeptics might say that the combined gross revenue of the hundreds of other companies licensing rights to stock photography must have been more than $417 million, but keep in mind that a good portion of the revenue of these other companies also appears on the books of the majors due to double counting. A couple of hundred or more of the mid-level agencies and production companies earn a significant portion of their revenue from sales made by the major players.

It is also interesting to note that the combined total for microstock and subscription sales almost equals the total traditional royalty-free sales and will certainly exceed them by the end or 2009.

What about the revenues of photographers who are licensing images directly to customers? The Internet has made it so much easier for customers to find an image they can use in large databases and quickly complete the transaction that the number of direct stock sales from photographer to customer has dropped dramatically from what it was 10 to 15 years ago. While there are certainly some sales of this type, they represent an increasingly small portion of total industry revenue.

Copyright © 2009 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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