Getty For Sale: Another Web-Ravaged Business

Anyone want the world’s biggest image and video warehouse? The current owners of Getty Images (GYI) are looking for someone to take the company off their hands, and they’re not asking much: The NYT floats a $1.5 billion price tag, which is only about 13% more than the market valued the company last week.

So why sell? The same medium that helped Getty’s launch is now helping to tear it down:

Its main rivals, Jupitermedia (JUPM), and the Corbis Corporation, a private company owned by the Microsoft (MSFT) founder Bill Gates, have also made a number of acquisitions, though they remain far smaller than Getty. The Internet — a medium that Getty pioneered by being the first to licence images online — has made it easier for clients to find pictures for less money.

There is more than one analogy here with other media businesses roiled by the Web: The Internet has made image distribution much easier, and may have increased the overall size of the market. But it has also decreased the value of any individual photo. One difference: It’s much easier to get away with “sharing” an MP3 than it is to post a Getty image (or Corbis, or Jupiter) that you haven’t purchased.

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