Tribune Media Co. said Tuesday (Dec. 20) that it has agreed to sell substantially all of its digital and data business operations, comprised of Gracenote video, music and sports, to the Nielsen Co. for $560 million in cash, subject to customary purchase price adjustments.
Tribune Media will retain its ownership of the business-to-consumer web sites Covers.com and ProSportsDaily.com. Tribune Media expects to receive approximately $500 million in after-tax proceeds from the transaction, the majority of which it will use to repay debt, with the remainder to be reinvested in the business. The sale is expected to close during the first quarter.
Tribune Media also said it plans to pay a special dividend of approximately $500 million during the first quarter to stockholders and warrantholders.
"We are extremely proud to have grown our digital and data business into a vibrant global enterprise, with talented and creative people who deliver outstanding service to blue-chip clients around the world," said Peter Liguori, Tribune Media's president and CEO. "From a strategic standpoint, however, we are pleased to be streamlining our company so that we can focus even more intently on seizing future opportunities for our local television and entertainment business."
He added: "Further, our intention to pay a special dividend, continue our share repurchase program and repay debt reflects our long-standing commitment to returning capital to shareholders while maintaining a balanced approach to our overall capital structure."
Gracenote provides reference information for more than 12 million movie and television listings and 200 million music tracks. Tribune Media acquired it in 2014.
"Thanks to its unrivaled music, TV, movie and sports databases, Gracenote is central to the consumption of digital entertainment by consumers," the company said. "Gracenote is the only global company providing data in the four largest and most popular categories of entertainment at scale, including descriptions of virtually every song, TV show and movie ever produced, along with sports scores and statistics for all of the world's top leagues and teams."
Gracenote will continue to operate from its headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. "Gracenote's metadata and content recognition technology fuels the interfaces of the major video, music and in-car infotainment systems that consumers engage with every day. This acquisition provides Nielsen with a significant asset in our mission of measuring and understanding consumer behavior," said Karthik Rao, president, Expanded Verticals at Nielsen.
"Over the last three years, under Tribune's ownership, we've transformed Gracenote into a global data powerhouse and Nielsen's acquisition ushers in an exciting new chapter for our people, products and customers," said John Batter, Gracenote's CEO. "Nielsen is a natural home for Gracenote. Both companies have entertainment data at their core and have spent years delivering services to the world's top media brands. Bringing together our data for driving discovery and tune-in with Nielsen's deep insights about what people are watching, listening to and buying makes a formidable combination."
This article originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.