In a financial report hardly seen by anyone, it is mentioned that Getty Images will take a loan of $275 million in order to pay dividend to it’s shareholders. Those are well known. It is a equity firm called Hellman & Friedman . This payment will, in addition to previous ones, cover the cost the equity company had to pay to take the company out of the public market. $1.3 billion dollars. What does this mean ? Probably that, incapable of selling the company, it is paying itself back. Was that part of the plan when they initially bought it? Probably. It would certainly make sense. Does that mean that when the payment is fully done, Getty Images returns into the hands of Klein and company ?

However, what is really important in this report is that Getty has made $945 million in revenue for 2011. That is close to one billion dollars ( Instagram anyone ?). Nothing is said about how much it took to get to this number or about profits, so we can only speculate. Furthermore, since it doesn’t give any breakdown, this revenue certainly includes music and video licensing revenues.

Regardless, last time Getty had announced revenue, it was around $800 million, a few years back.

So what do we learn ? That Getty, despite terrible market conditions, is growing. At what cost, we don’t know.

If the overhaul stock photo market is indeed at $3 billion, then it owns a third of it. If it’s only at $1.5 billion, as some others claim, they control 60 %.

Undeniably , Getty is number one in the US. By a large margin. In other markets, in most European countries, they are certainly in the  top 3 position. Are we close to a monopoly ? Certainly. The question should rather be, is Getty using its massive dominance in the market to shut others down. Difficult to argue since it seems that every week  a new photo agency is born. Existing photo agencies all seem to continue to be in business ( 500+ expected attendees at Cepic this year), albeit at what cost?

When Getty first entered this market in the 90’s, no one believed that a photo agency could post a billion dollars in revenue. Most were happily satisfied to be in the tens of millions and only dreamed of bringing it to the hundreds.

So what is the key to Getty’s success ? Continued adaptation to the markets needs, regardless of the cost to photographers. Getty’s strategy has always been, ever since the famous Klein statement of ” photographers don’t pay our bills”, to meet or exceed their clients demands in pricing and content. If they acquire a company it is not so much to eliminate competition than to have what clients obviously desires.

On a related note, it seems Shutterstock, the subscription only microstock company is going for an IPO. This will be one of the very rare times when a stock photo agency enters the public market ( Getty tried and retracted after a few years) . There is a good chance that Shutterstock will heavily put the emphasis on the technology part of their company and stay away from the stock photo part. They are probably encouraged by the huge evaluation of Instagram and figure there is an opportunity here. If this IPO is successful, it shouldn’t be long we see the others, like Dreamstime or Fotolia, also attempt it.


On Getty here

on Shutterstock here


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