Tribune buying metadata rival Gracenote from Sony for $170M

Time Warner Cable signs multi-year retrans deal with Tribune; MSO won't drop NECN
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Tribune Co. said it agreed to buy Sony's Gracenote subsidiary for $170 million, in a deal that could see its TMS division help pay TV distributors deliver interactive programming and advertising to viewers using TVs, tablets and smartphones.

TMS, which sells TV listings info and metadata to Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR) and other major providers, would pick off a rival supplier of program guide software and metadata. But the Gracenote acquisition could also help it deliver advertising to connected TVs and second screen devices using the Gracenote Entourage ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) platform.

In January 2013, Gracenote announced a pact with advertising network DG to sell marketers interactive ads on mobile devices and connected TVs. Tribune has grown its TMS division, formerly known as Tribune Media Services, through acquisitions such as its 2003 purchase of iSurfTV and partnerships with tech vendors such as Digitalsmiths.

The Gracenote acquisition could also help TMS compete with top IPG tech vendor Rovi (Nasdaq: ROVI), which has been looking to grow revenue by expanding into connected TVs and second-screen devices.

"This transaction extends and complements TMS' best-in-class core competency in the metadata business, while also deepening Tribune's slate of subscription services," Tribune CEO Peter Liguori said in a prepared statement. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter, according to Tribune. 

Tribune also owns major newspapers and TV stations, and has waged public battles with DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) and other distributors involving demands for increased retransmission-consent fees. On Monday, Tribune announced that it signed Time Warner Cable to a multi-year retrans deal that covers its stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego and Indianapolis. Tribune, which named former Comcast and NBCUniversal executive Dana Zimmer president of distribution in April, said the TWC deal includes stations that is acquiring in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Greensboro, S.C., and distribution for its superstation WGN America.

In related news, TWC announced on Friday that it reversed a decision to drop Comcast-owned New England Cable News from its cable systems in New England on Jan. 1. "NECN has now agreed to work with our leadership at Time Warner Cable to improve the quality of their local programming for our customers," TWC spokesman Scott Pryzwansky said in a statement published by the Bangor Daily News.

For more:
- see release on Gracenote deal
- see release on Tribune-TWC deal
- Bangor Daily News has this story on NECN announcement

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