Shutterstock 2016 Financial Results

Posted on 2/27/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Shutterstock has reported Q4 2016 revenue of $130.2 million and a total of $494.3 million in revenue for all of 2016. The full year revenue was up about 16% from $425.1 million in 2015. For comparison purposes revenue growth was 30% in 2015 and 39% in 2014.

There were a total of 167.9 million downloads for the year up from 147.2 million in 2015. While revenue grew 16% the collection size grew 63% to 116.2 million up from 71.4 million at the end of 2015.

At the end of trading today on the NY Stock Exchange Shutterstock shares had declined 9.52% to $42.11 from the previous day's trade. The 52 week high for the stock was $65.16 and the 52 week low was $32.97. Thus, the stock is down 35% from its 52 week high.


The chart below shows some of the trends in downloads, images in the collection and revenue growth since Q3 2014. Video downloads are not included in this calculation. (For earlier data going back to Q1 2012 see here.) The "Rev/Image" row is "the average revenue per image in the collection." For this figure I divide total revenue by the sum of still images.

  Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
  2014 2014 2015 2015 2015 2015 2016 2016 2016 2016
Downloads (millions) 31.2 33.5 33.4 35.9 38.1 39.8 41.2 43.4 41.2 41.1
Rev.per DL $2.65 $2.68 $2.87 $2.85 $2.76 $2.86 $2.77 $2.81 $2.91 $3.02
Images in collection 42.7 46.8 51.6 57.2 63.7 71.4 81.0 92.1 102.7 116.2
Total Rev. (millions) $83.7 $91.2 $97.5 $104.4 $107.3 $115.9 $116.7 $124.3 $123.1 $130.2
Rev/Image $1.96 $1.95 $1.89 $1.83 $1.68 $1.62 $1.44 $1.34 $1.20 $1.12
% Image Lic 81% 72% 65% 63% 60% 56% 51% 47% 40% 35%
    The "% Image Lic” row measures the odds that a single image in the collection will have been licensed one time within the quarter. To arrive at this number, we divide the total downloads by the number of images in the collection at the end of the quarter. This number is significant because it shows that new images are being added to the collection at a much faster rate than image downloads are increasing. For example, if a contributor had 1000 images in the collection in Q3 2014 on average he would have had 810 downloads in that quarter. The same 1000 images in the collection in Q4 2015 would have only resulted in 350 downloads.

Financial Outlook

For all of 2017 the company expects revenue to be between $545 and $560 million. If we take $553 million – the middle of that range – then expected revenue growth for 2017 will be about 12%. It should be noted that at the beginning of 2016 they expected revenue for the whole year to be between $495 and $510 million and they didn’t quite make the low end of that estimate.


At the end of 2016, Shutterstock had over 190,000 contributors. It is important to note that at the end of 2015 they said they had just over 100,000 contributors. Thus, they have almost doubled their contributors in one year. At the end of Q3 2016 they said they had over 160,000 contributors so they added over 30,000 in just one quarter. (There are some very interesting analysis of contributor activities in an article published by on February 17th. Be sure to scroll down.)

Shutterstock said they paid out about 28% of gross revenue, or $138,400,000, to contributors in royalties during the year. Thus, the average contributor earned $728.42 during the year and had 612 images in the collection.

It is unclear how many of the 190,000 actually contribute still images or illustrations to the Shutterstock collection. One would think that all the BigStock contributors are also included in this number. Since some of the BigStock contributors also supply images to the Shutterstock collection they may be counted twice. It is also unclear whether the Rex contributors are counted and whether all the contributors to sub-agencies who license images through Rex are included in the count. In addition, we have the video contributors and the music contributors and the people who created the 700,000 images for The Art Archives and The Kobal Collection that Shutterstock recently acquired. It would be interesting to have some clarification on this 190,000 number.

Enterprise Customers

During the conference call they said they have 36,000 Enterprise customers up from 35,000 at the end of Q3 and 24,000 at the end of 2015. The Enterprise customers generate about 30% of total revenue or $148.29 million. Thus, the average Enterprise customers is spending $4,119 a year. We know that a few of the major Enterprise customers are spending over $100,000 a year so a significant number of these customers are spending much less than $4,000 a year.

In 2015 the average Enterprise customer was spending $6,000 a year. Clearly, as they add more customers to their Enterprise program they must turn to customers whose overall annual spend is less and less. Since Shutterstock customers pay $2,388 annually for a 750 download-per-month subscription, it won’t be long until every one of these customers qualifies to be an Enterprise customer.

Shutterstock says they have 1.7 million customers who are mostly business users. The average customer is spending $290.76 annually with Shutterstock. Since Enterprise customers spend an average of $4,119 per year, obviously many customers are spending much less than $290 per year. One thing that is not clear is the number of the 1.7 million “customers” that fall into the Enterprise category. Some “Enterprise Customers” have 40, 50 or more art directors with access to the same enterprise account. We suspect, although it is not clear, that each of these art directors is counted as a single customer in the 1.7 million figure.


Shutterstock says they currently have 6.2 million video clips. Video is growing faster than the company is growing on both the customer and the contributor side according to CEO Jon Oringer. It is unclear how many creators are providing video clips and how much that number might have increased in 2016. In the past, Shutterstock has said that about 10% of their revenue comes from video licensing, but it is unclear how much of that licensing is to Enterprise customers and would be included in the Enterprise 30%.

Platform Business

During the quarterly conference call one questioner pointed out that paid downloads have been declining over the past two quarters. He asked if this isn’t an indication of a trend in the maturity of the industry, or a more competitive environment.

Oringer said, “The growth in paid download follows the growth in the ecommerce business.” (So the ecommerce business for stock imagery is not growing.)

The questioner then asked “How big is this new larger addressable market (the Platform Business) you’re discussing.”

Oringer said, "Today, what we’re focused on is taking our transactional marketplace and turning it into an end-to-end platform… having many more touch points with the customer over their entire creative life cycle for using imagery, deploying imagery, creating imagery and measuring imagery.

"This is a multi-year strategy and it expands our addressable market pretty significantly. If you think of stock imagery as a $5 to $10 billion addressable market (Selling-Stock has estimated it as a $2.4 billion market) you take the total workflow market that is many tens of billions of dollars of addressable market. So we think we have a creative platform, we have a great model, we have a great stating point where we’re selling over 5 images per second to businesses all around the world and we’re going to work off of that starting point.”

The questioner then asked, “How quickly should we start seeing the positive impacts, or the creative impacts to the growth rate?”

CFO Steven Bern said, “We’re going to continue to build off of the platform that we’re finishing off in this quarter. We’re going to drive growth as we go forward. We think that to provide ‘here’s what we’re going to do’ is less valuable than ‘here’s what we have just done.’ We’re planning aggressively to provide growth, but we want to be realistic about what the near term results might be."

If I understand correctly this Platform Business is really a separate line of business that has little, if anything, to do with licensing of rights to images. Shutterstock may be able to grow its overall business by providing other types of services to image users, but it may not necessarily result in licensing rights to one additional image or video clip. Jon has basically acknowledged that the business of licensing rights to the use of imagery has plateaued.

However, they also feel the necessity to take in more and more images - mostly from part-timers and amateurs. This can only result in a continued decline in the revenue generated by each image in the collection.

Copyright © 2017 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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