Tribune Company Names John Batter New Gracenote CEO, Plans 'Aggressive' Expansion
Tribune Media Company has named John Batter as the new chief executive of Gracenote, a provider of audio and video metadata and recognition services, as well as executive vice president at Tribune Media. Interim chief executive Shashi Seth, who also had the role of president at Tribune Digital Services, has decided to leave company.
Batter starts at Gracenote on Sept. 2 and will report to Peter Liguori, president and chief executive officer of Tribune Media. Prior to joining Gracenote, Batter was the chief executive of M-Go, an online video rental and purchase company similar to Amazon Instant Video, serving since the company's inception three years ago. Before joining M-Go, Batter was the president of production at DreamWorks Animation.
Batter tells Billboard that being a Gracenote customer at MGo helped shape his opinions on the value of metadata plays in the digital ecosystem and experience. "I think it is as critical to the digital experience as sound and pictures are to the movie. It helps get consumers to what they want to watch."
Consumers frequently encounter Gracenote services -- at Google Play, Xbox Music, MTV and others -- without knowing it. Its MusicID service uses metadata to let listeners identify songs whether downloaded or ripped from CDs. The Scan & Match technology helps cloud services like Amazon Cloud Player sync offline and online music collections. Such technologies facilitate discovery and ease of use, two vital aspects of today's digital music services.
“Tribune Media has decided to focus its digital investment strategy on growing its metadata business globally, which today includes Gracenote and What’s-ON," said Tribune CEO Peter Liguori in a statement. "It is becoming very clear that metadata will help drive the evolution of next-generation TV and music experiences and we believe Gracenote is in an excellent position to drive the industry forward."
The market for metadata is growing, and Batter says Gracenote will "expand internationally quite aggressively" under his leadership. "I think Gracenote hears and we all see the internationalism of content. Consumers want their content wherever they are. Wherever they are extends beyond borders."
Gracenote has already started its international expansion. In July, Tribune Digital Ventures acquired What's-ON, a leading television search and electronic program guide data provider in India and the Middle East. What's-ON customers include TV networks such as Discovery Networks, services providers such as Qatar Telecom and electronics manufacturers like Sony and Samsung.
Gracenote itself was acquired by Tribune Media Services from Sony in February for $170 million. The vast portfolio of parent company the Tribune Company includes 42 owned or operated television stations, including WGN America and Chicago's WGN-AM radio station, and has been rebranded as Tribune Media Company. The publishing business that owns several leading newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, was spun off as Tribune Publishing earlier this month.
Graham McKenna, vp of marketing, says Gracenote has been integrated with Tribune Media Services, the video analog to Gracenote that powers listings for cable company and satellite television providers, and the combined company now operates under the Gracenote brand.
Both Gracenote cofounders, Ty Roberts and Steve Scherf, are still with the company. "I'm particularly happy they're on the team," says Batter.