January 19, 2015

Stock photo agency Shutterstock makes two big acquisitions

We are officially in the age of the stock photo. Last month, Microsoft announced that it would discontinue its popular "Clipart" feature in Microsoft Office Suite, and replace it with a search engine to find licensed images for users to insert under fair use guidelines. Copyright law has made it increasingly difficult and frowned-upon for designers and casual document creators to use images without permission, and Shutterstock has been a leading provider of audio and visual content. 

This week, the company announced that it would expand its photo and audio offerings with two acquisitions: Rex Features, the largest photo press agency in Europe, and PremiumBeat, a service that provides stock music and sound effects. TechCrunch reports that the company bought Rex Features for $33 million and PremiumBeat for $32 million, twin acquisitions that fit neatly into the firm's long-term strategy for content dominance. 

Founded in 2003, Shutterstock's stock photo offerings are of the pedestrian variety: Think photos of female executives (literally) shattering a glass ceiling or happy seniors doing yoga. The anonymous, category- and theme-focused offerings do not include a wealth of celebrity or public figure images, whereas Rex Features' library includes events, red carpets and other public happenings. For Shutterstock users who've been frustrated by the lack of entertainment content, the acquisition could expand capabilities significantly. 

PremiumBeat, on the other hand, will bolster the offerings of Shutterstock Music. A fledgling division of the company, it provides licensed audio content for users who create multimedia. 

"We are excited to add such a complementary business in PremiumBeat, with a fast-growing customer base and an extraordinary collection," said Shutterstock CEO Jon Oringer in a press release. "We understand the intersection between music and video and believe that music licensing will benefit from the same, strong market demand we are capitalizing on with video."

The clear acquisition strategy here is to enhance existing services with more content, and Shutterstock may find the deals were $65 million well-spent.