AP, Corbis team up in bid to profit from pictures

August 23, 2011 - 1:05 PM
Associated Press Corbis

File - This May 6, 1937 file photo, taken at almost the split second that the Hindenburg exploded, shows the 804-foot German zeppelin just before the second and third explosions send the ship crashing to the earth over the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J. The roaring flames silhouette two men, at right atop the mooring mast, dangerously close to the explosions.The Associated Press and Corbis Images are teaming up Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, in an attempt to make more money from a stockpile of photography that includes some of the world’s most famous pictures. (AP Photo) B/W ONLY

The Associated Press and Corbis Images are teaming up in an attempt to make more money from a stockpile of photography that includes some of the world's most famous photos.

The partnership, announced Tuesday, calls for the AP and Corbis Images to begin posting each other's photos in their online galleries beginning in early October. The websites, http://www.apimages.com and http://www.corbisimages.com , license the photos to be used by magazines, books, websites, advertisers and a variety of other buyers.

Financial details of the arrangement between the AP and Corbis weren't disclosed. The agreement covers more than 10 million digital photos, with the AP and Corbis supplying about 5 million each.

The selections will include some of the pictures that have won the AP 30 Pulitzer Prizes for photography. Some of Corbis' contributions will come from a prized archive of prints and negatives collected by Otto Bettmann. Corbis drew upon the multibillion dollar fortune of its owner, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, to buy the Bettmann archive in 1995.

The AP and Corbis formed their alliance in hopes of mining new markets. By combining their portfolios, they hope to feed off each other's strengths and lure business away from top photo licensing rival Getty Images and a host of others.

As a not-for-profit cooperative started by newspaper publishers 165 years ago, the AP's photographic strengths are breaking news, sports and entertainment. The global news organization is based in New York.

Since its inception in 1989, Corbis has amassed a trove of historical photos and a mix of so-called stock photography that tends to appeal to advertisers.

"Now the AP and Corbis are able to provide an alternative to Getty that we feel is superior" across every key category, Corbis CEO Gary Shenk said in an interview.

AP CEO Tom Curley expects the partnership to "provide unprecedented access to the most far-reaching, complete collections available anywhere."

The Corbis deal marks the latest step in the AP's effort to recover some of the revenue that it lost in the past two years as it lowered its fees to help newspapers and broadcasters cope with downturns in their own businesses. The AP's revenue last year totaled $630.5 million, a decline of $117 million, or 16 percent, from 2008.

Curley expects the AP's revenue to rise slightly this year as it garners more money from the Internet, video and other sources, such as the photo archives.

The demand to license the AP's photography has been rising during the past decade, as the Internet and mobile devices such as Apple Inc.'s iPad create new ways to showcase pictures, said Fernando Ferre, the AP's vice president of images.

Corbis, a privately held company based in Seattle, hasn't disclosed its finances since 2007 when it named Shenk as CEO in an effort to bring in more revenue from licensing rights. At that time, Corbis had about $250 million in annual revenue.

Getty Images, also privately held, doesn't disclose its revenue either. The company had nearly $858 million in revenue in 2007, the last year it reported financial results before being bought for $2 billion in a deal led by buyout specialists Hellman & Friedman.