WASHINGTON – Shutterstock said Tuesday it’s buying Giphy from Meta Platforms for $53 million, the final step to unwind the deal blocked by British regulators, who prevented the Facebook owner from purchasing the GIF-sharing platform over competition concerns.
The stock image service said it's paying cash for Giphy, which has 1.7 billion daily users and partners including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok and Twitter. Shutterstock said it signed a deal to give Meta continued access to New York-based Giphy’s content across Meta’s platforms.
In a statement, CEO Paul Hennessy said the acquisition will help Shutterstock expand its audience reach “beyond primarily professional marketing and advertising use cases” and “into casual conversations.”
The transaction, set to close in next month, could potentially leave Meta with a big loss.
Meta purchased Giphy in 2020, in a deal reportedly worth $400 million. Britain's Competition and Markets Authority opened an antitrust investigation over concerns it would result in “substantial lessening of competition" in the U.K. market for GIFs, or short looping videos. They're a popular tool for internet users sending messages or posting on social media.
The country's competition watchdog ordered Meta to reverse the deal in 2021. Meta appealed but lost, and the U.K. watchdog concluded that “the only way to avoid the significant impact the deal would have on competition” is for Meta to sell Giphy to an approved buyer.
Meta declined to comment further Tuesday on Shutterstock's acquisition, and directed The Associated Press to an October statement that said it's disappointed by the U.K. decision but accepts it as the "final word on the matter."
That statement also said Meta would “continue to evaluate opportunities — including through acquisition — to bring innovation and choice to more people in the UK and around the world.”
The U.K. watchdog found that Meta’s purchase of Giphy would hurt social media users and advertisers by stifling competition for animated images. The watchdog later concluded that the deal would boost traffic to Meta-owned sites, while denying or limiting access for online platforms to Giphy GIFs. It also found that the deal would remove potential competition from the U.K.’s 7 billion pound ($7.9 billion) display advertising market, half of which Meta controls.
CMA blocking Meta's acquisition of Giphy marked the the first time that the U.K. watchdog had sought to unwind a tech deal. But the move set precedent for similar British regulation across the industry.
Last month, for example, CMA blocked Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of video game maker Activision Blizzard — citing similar concerns that the deal would stifle competition for popular titles like Call of Duty in the fast-growing cloud gaming market.
AP Technology Writer Kelvin Chan reported from London.