Sony is slimming down. The Japanese conglomerate has spent the past year looking for opportunities to sell off its complementary assets as it seeks to streamline operations, reduce costs, and refocus its consumer electronics business.
And the Tribune company is ready to pick up Sony’s slack.
Tribune has entered an agreement to buy Sony’s Gracenote music data division for $170 million, the Chicago-based media company said in a statement on Monday. When the deal closes following regulatory approvals (expected before March 2014), it’ll combine the music metadata company with Tribune Media Services (TMS), which provides data on TV shows and movies to companies like TiVo and Roku.
Gracenote is exploring new areas that align more closely with TMS, including tech that can identify TV shows and movies by listening to their audio, but it’ll continue to focus primarily on its “core competencies” (the music industry).
“It’s big music data meets big video data,” said a Gracenote representative of the acquisition. The expansion is more about TMS entering the music data business than Gracenote pivoting to focus on video, the rep confirmed to VentureBeat.
Gracenote’s technology can recognize some 180 million songs played on digital music players or services like iTunes, Spotify, and Xbox Music. It knows when and where they were recorded, their mood, and tempo — data valuable to companies that want to provide music recommendations tailored to your specific listening habits. The recently launched iTunes Radio uses Gracenote tech. Gracenote’s database gets 550 million “lookups” daily, totaling more than 16 billion per month.
The company also has an automative app that appears in vehicles from Ford and Toyota. Beyond displaying metadata and cover art, it includes a phonetic database of artist names, so you can speak your music selection and your car will (hopefully) understand. The company has a partnership with Nuance, a voice-recognition-technology company.
The Tribune acquisition won’t lead to any staffing changes, according to the Gracenote rep. It isn’t likely to affect day-to-day operations much, either; the company operated fairly autonomously under Sony management, and the rep expects that to continue with Tribune.
Sony originally acquired the Emeryville, Calif.-based Gracenote five years ago in a deal worth $260 million.
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