Shutterstock Made $104 Million Licensing Assets to AI Devs Last Year

A human hand reaches out towards a robotic hand that is holding a stack of gold coins. In the background, there are digital financial metrics displayed. The focal point is the Shutterstock logo prominently displayed across the center.

Stock photo and video agency Shutterstock has announced a new multi-year partnership with Reka, an AI company. Like its relationships with Meta, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and OpenAI, Shutterstock is licensing its data for Reka to train AI models.

Update 6/7: Shutterstock projects its 2024 revenue for the entire business unit, including AI licensing, to be $138 million this fiscal year. The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Shutterstock projected $138 million in revenue for AI licensing alone.

Shutterstock is a compelling option for companies to source training data, as the stock platform has photos, videos, and audio assets in its massive library. As Shutterstock’s CEO, Paul Hennessy, explained when the company announced its six-year partnership with OpenAI last year: “The renewal and significant expansion of our strategic partnership with OpenAI reinforces Shutterstock’s commitment to driving AI tech innovation and positions us as the data and distribution partner of choice for industry leaders in generative AI.”

Licensing assets and associated metadata is a significant and growing part of Shutterstock’s business operations. Bloomberg reports that Shutterstock made $104 million in revenue last year through just its licensing agreements with AI companies.

Acquiring training data from a reputable source like Shutterstock is a boon for AI developers. Crafting and training models requires significant data input, and to ensure the output is commercially viable, the training data should be legally sourced. This is an area where Adobe has a big leg up over the competition — Adobe has a vast stock asset library of its own, and it’s only getting bigger.

Reka’s CEO Dani Yogatama says it best. “It was critical for us to partner with Shutterstock given its comprehensive source of legally licensable content with best-in-class, human-created metadata.”

As companies race to create the best generative AI models, they face increased scrutiny over how they train their models. Shutterstock saw an opportunity and took it, and it is far from the only company to do so.

Reddit is getting about $60 million a year from Google for its data and is leveraging its data with OpenAI thanks to a new pact. Getty Images, another stock agency, works with generative AI video company Runway. There are many photo companies that have struck licensing deals with AI firms, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

“We are excited by the ability to leverage Shutterstock’s ever-growing library of diverse digital assets to continue to drive advancements in AI. This will allow us to develop frontier models that benefit partners and customers including Shutterstock. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Shutterstock over time,” Yogatama says.

While the precise details of the Reka partnership have not been disclosed, Shutterstock’s 2024 fiscal year projections anticipate the company earning $138 million in revenue, including AI licensing. By 2027, Shutterstock expects this part of its business to produce $250 million in annual revenue.

Image credits: Header photo created using an asset licensed via Depositphotos.