Corbis Aggressively Expands Royalty Free Position

Posted on 7/12/2005 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



July 12, 2005

Corbis ( today announced a series of moves that position the company to take a significantly larger share of royalty free sales and solidifies the company's position as the second largest global provider of imagery and related services to creative and editorial business users.

In a 3-part announcement:

  • Corbis launched "rf SHOP," a new royalty free website on with almost 200,000 high quality RF images.

  • It has signed numerous leading content partners including Jupiterimages, MedioImages, and Blend, and
  • It acquired image100, an established London-based royalty free production business.

"Clients in every segment, including advertising/design agencies, corporate marketers, and publishers, use royalty free imagery for projects that benefit from flexible use and perpetual rights," said Jennifer Hurshell, Corbis' senior vice-president of commercial image licensing. "Demand in this image category has seen healthy growth in tandem with rights managed content types, and we are meeting that demand with our new rf SHOP, showcasing nearly 200,000 richly diversified professional-grade images."

With the launch of rf SHOP (
) Corbis is aggregating its entire RF offering and providing customers with enhanced search capabilities, improved seat licensing, and industry leading 3-click checkout. RF photography collections from Corbis, image100, MedioImages, Blend, Image Source, Brand X, Goodshoot, DEX and others are available for immediate licensing, and Jupitermedia's Thinkstock and Comstock collections will be added next month.

Prior to the addition of this new content Corbis had about 100,000 wholly owned images. Late last year the company made a decision to expand its RF offering and it has been working toward developing a richer collection with more stylistic diversity since. With the new additions about 50% of their collection will be from 3rd party suppliers. In addition, Corbis is aggressively looking for additional 3rd Party RF suppliers, particularly those with niche collections.

While rf SHOP will be in a separate section of the site for those customers with an exclusive interest in RF, any search on the Creative section of the site will pull up all RF as well RM that fit the parameters of the search.

image100 has been one of Corbis' most successful content partners for several years and adds approximately 40,000 wholly-owned images to the company's royalty-free collection as a result of the acquisition. Russell Glenister, CEO and co-founder of image100, joins Corbis as vice-president of creative content production, reporting to Hurshell. Glenister is charged with growing Corbis' proprietary image production via creative hubs in New York, London, and Hong Kong, and will collaborate closely with Carolyn Guidoin and Siri Vorbeck who continue to lead the sourcing of Corbis' creative imagery from top-tier commercial photographers and filmmakers around the world.


Many in the industry believe Corbis' RF offering has been weak for some time and that Corbis has not been generating the revenue a company of its size should have been generating from RF. With the addition of a significant number of images (approximately another 100,000 and more on the way) from some of the top RF producers Corbis is in a good position to quickly capture additional RF market share.

One of the major advantages Corbis' offers 3rd party suppliers is a large sales staff including customer service, research, account executives, and account managers who visit customers. This staff numbers about 400 out of a total Corbis worldwide staff of approximately 1,000. Hurshell said, "We have dis-proportionally over invested in this segment of our business because our go-to-market strategy is centered around the idea that building relationships is the very best way to engage with clients early in their creative workflow. This results in a better insight into their projects and eventually more sales for us."

Jennifer Hurshell is quick to point out that the launch of rf SHOP (and their renewed interest in RF) had been in the planning stages since the fall of 2004 and "has nothing to do with recent developments in the market" (read Getty Image's recent moves; See "Getty Applying Pressure On Suppliers" in Story 740). However, from the image supplier's point of view it couldn't have come at a better time.

For images suppliers there seems to be several advantages to being represented by Corbis as Getty Images tries to tighten the screws on the brands they represent. It is believed that Corbis suppliers may be getting better percentages than Getty is offering, although Hurshell refused to reveal the specifics of any deals. Hurshell did say, "We would never ask an RF content partner to be exclusive to any one distributor because by definition royalty free is what I like to call a 'promiscuous' content type. Requiring exclusivity is inconsistent with the way the market is structured to sell royalty free. There needs to be win/win approach. We want to be sure our partners are making money so they can invest some of the fruits of their labors into new production. Even if we had unlimited financial resources, I would still want to assemble a bouquet of RF content that is comprised of our own wholly owned and that of partners in order to get diversification."

With Corbis' renewed efforts suppliers have a serious option that may be able to impact the large worldwide customer base as well as Getty. And Corbis suppliers don't have to limit themselves, but can have images with as many distributors as they can find throughout the world.

While most RF suppliers would prefer to have their images on both and, if they are forced to choose either Getty, or Corbis the choice has just got a lot more difficult. If Getty sticks with its plan to terminate any of the "image partners" that continue to deal with Corbis or Jupitermedia (See Story 740) it is entirely possible that in a very short period of time Getty could drop 125,000 RF images and end up with fewer RF images on its site than there are on Corbis. (Currently Getty has 362,321 RF images with 226,278 belonging to the Photodisc and DV brands where the images are mostly wholly owned by Getty.) If this happens, and Corbis offers greater diversity in content and price, it is easy to see how many customers might prefer to go to Corbis first. It is hard to imagine that such a loss of content won't affect Getty's sales.

The remaining RF brands that are on Getty, but not Corbis are: foodcollection, f Stop, Photo Alto, Pixland, Queerstock, Rubberball and Stockbyte. One would expect all these brands would either seek a relationship with Corbis to protect their negotiating position, or to sell out to Getty. It will be interesting to see how quickly Corbis moves to sign up these brands and how this plays out.

Copyright © 2005 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:  


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