Corbis Predicts Slight Industry Decline by 2012

Posted on 10/28/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

According to Corbis chief executive officer Gary Shenk, total stock-photo revenue will decline only slightly by 2012. Corbis estimates the total 2007 market at $2.3 billion, predicting it will decline to $2.2 billion by 2012. However, this is no reason to be sanguine, as the same total will be divided differently among various industry segments. In addition, this analysis was completed during the summer, prior to the more recent economic disruption.

In 2007, micropayment probably accounted for $150 million, and $2.15 billion in sales was generated by rights-managed, royalty-free and editorial images. In 2012, Corbis expects microstock to represent 25% of the market, or $550 million, while traditional imagery drops by $500 million, to $1.65 billion.

In addition, revenue from editorial imagery is expected to grow over the next four years, particularly revenues from celebrity photographs. Thus, the drop in creative-image sales—including rights-managed and traditional royalty-free images—seems likely to be even greater than $500 million. The traditional royalty-free market segment will lose more than rights-managed sales.

This suggests that total creative-image revenue will drop by more than 25% by the end of 2012. The only way for individual producers to keep their revenue stables will be to take significant market share from their competitors.

While consistent in trend with Selling Stock’s previous predictions, Corbis numbers fail to account for the double-counting that takes place in the industry. If the gross revenue of all industry stock-photo sellers were to be added together, it would be in the range of the Corbis-estimated $2.3 billion. However, a significant portion of every company’s revenue comes from sales made by other companies. Even Getty Images receives a portion of its revenue from distributors who represent parts of Getty’s collection and have included the amounts they pay Getty as part of their own gross revenue.

In such cases, the distributor that initially licenses an image records 100% of the revenue on its books. The distributor then pays a significant portion, anywhere from 20% to 80%, of that revenue to the supplier agency, which also subsequently records this revenue on its books. As such, the sum total paid by still-image buyers in 2007, which is the real revenue generated by images, was closer to $1.8 billion than $2.3 billion. Flat for several years, such revenues are expected to decline, and the rates of decline predicted by Corbis are realistic.

Copyright © 2008 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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