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Last update on June 6, 2024

Shutterstock’s AI Licensing Segment Rakes in $104 Million in 2023

3 min read
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Shutterstock has been a big name in stock media for years, but now they’re making waves in the AI world.

They’ve been dabbling in AI for a while, creating their own AI applications. But their real game-changer? AI licensing—letting other companies use their massive content library to train AI models.

And this move brought in over $100 million in 2023.

Shutterstock’s AI Licensing Jackpot

Shutterstock isn’t just any stock media company; they’re known as tech-savvy innovators. They saw the potential of their enormous content library as a goldmine for training AI models, especially generative AI. Generative AI has been all the rage recently, with some even saying it might spell the end of traditional stock photo businesses. But Shutterstock’s strategy is paying off, big time.

CEO Paul J. Hennessy spilled the beans in a recent interview with Bloomberg, sharing that their AI licensing deals raked up $104 million last year alone.

Just this week, they signed a new deal with Reka AI, a startup focused on large language models. And that’s just one of many. Shutterstock has also inked deals with heavyweights like Meta, Amazon, and Apple. They even have a six-year licensing agreement with OpenAI, which was signed last year.

Looking ahead, Shutterstock is aiming high. They’re projecting $138 million in AI licensing revenue for 2024, with expectations soaring to $250 million by 2027.

The Nuts and Bolts of AI Licensing

AI models, especially those behind chatbots, image generators, and other cool tools, need tons of data—millions of images, to be exact. In the early days, AI developers scraped content from the web, which raised all sorts of legal and ethical questions about copyright and artist compensation. As a result, there’s been a push for more regulated, ethically sourced training data.

This is where Shutterstock shines. With 771 million images, 54 million videos, 4 million audio tracks, and even 1 million 3D models, they’re a treasure trove for AI training. And they’re constantly growing their collection through acquisitions and partnerships. For example, the video library from Pond5, which Shutterstock acquired and now operates as a standalone, has been a hit for AI training.

Plus, Shutterstock isn’t just hoarding profits. It has a Contributor Fund to pay royalties to contributors whose work is used in training datasets, ensuring artists get their fair share.

Shutterstock isn’t alone in this space. Adobe and Getty Images are also leveraging their libraries for AI training. Adobe uses its content to fuel its generative AI tool, Adobe Firefly; Getty Images also has its own native AI offer and licenses its assets to third-party developers.

The Future is Bright for AI Licensing

In short, Shutterstock’s shift to AI licensing shows its knack for staying ahead of the curve. While traditional stock photo licensing isn’t going anywhere, this new venture promises huge returns.

AI licensing is shaping up to be a major revenue stream for Shutterstock and the stock media industry at large.

We’re excited to see where this goes and how it will reshape the industry!


Ivanna Attie

All About Ivanna

I am an experienced author with expertise in digital communication, stock media, design, and creative tools. I have closely followed and reported on AI developments in this field since its early days. I have gained valuable industry insight through my work with leading digital media professionals since 2014.

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AI Secrets is a platform for tech decision-makers to learn about AI technology. Our team includes experts such as Amos Struck (20+ yrs ICT, Stock Photo, AI), Ivanna Attie (expert in digital comms, design, stock media), and more who share their views on AI.

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