As it continues to expand and strengthen its Web business, Viacom unit MTV Networks said June 20 it has acquired NeoPets, the operator of a fast-growing youth community on the Internet.


NEW YORK (The Hollywood Reporter) -- As it continues to expand and strengthen its Web business, Viacom unit MTV Networks said June 20 it has acquired NeoPets, the operator of a fast-growing youth community on the Internet.

While the two firms did not disclose financial terms, sources said the deal is valued at about $160 million.

The transaction is the latest move by one of Viacom's units to strengthen their Internet business. Management, under the leadership of chairman/CEO Sumner Redstone, has in recent months repeatedly said it wants to expand its presence in this fast-growing segment.

The deal also is seen as a way to develop further NeoPets-inspired entertainment products.

The online firm in March announced a deal with Time Warner's Warner Bros. unit to develop and produce animated feature films based on NeoPets stories and characters. The company also has videogame deals with mobile game publisher In-Fusio and with Sony Corp. for its PlayStation 2 and PSP devices.

The acquisition news also was a glimpse at the kind of deals that Wall Street observers have said could happen once Viacom splits into two companies by early next year. The Tom Freston-led Viacom will center on MTV Networks and has said it expects to hunt for acquisitions in the online, wireless and videogaming fields.

NeoPets is a global online network, whose members create and care for virtual pets inhabiting the mythical land of Neopia. More than 25 million members worldwide have created NeoPets accounts in 10 languages, generating more than 5 billion page views per month, according to a statement by the two firms June 20.

"The combination of NeoPets and Nick.com gives us a one-two punch leadership position in the online entertainment space among kids and young adults," MTVN vice chairman Herb Scannell said. "The hidden value of NeoPets is the fact that over 60% of its audience is over age 13, which aligns with the audiences of many of our MTV Network brands."

NeoPets chairman /CEO Doug Dohring and other senior executives will continue in their roles and will manage the company from its base in Glendale, Calif. Dohring will report to Jeffrey Dunn, president of Nickelodeon Film and Enterprises.

Paul Bond in Los Angeles contributed to this report.