Another big M&A piece goes into the world of media. Publishing group Red Ventures announced today that it is buying CNET Media Group from ViacomCBS for $ 500 million. The deal will include the CNET tech site of the same name as well as ZDNet, Gamespot, TVGuide, Metacritic and Chowhound.
The news stems from speculation, which has been around for months, that ViacomCBS was looking for a buyer for CNET and the broader media group after Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, pioneered the idea after the merger of Viacom and CBS Outsource non-core assets. (And even earlier, insiders tell us that there were rumors that CBS wanted to outsource CNET and its tech stable for “literally years”
Bakish had been looking for a $ 500 million cost savings, a good coincidence as that is the price Red Ventures is paying.
Red Ventures has been around since 2000 – a veteran and beneficiary of the dot-com crash in the late 1990s. It already owns 100 digital brands in categories such as health, finance, travel, entertainment, home services and education. Titles include Healthline.com, Greatist.com, Medical News Today, Bankrate.com, The Points Guy, and CreditCards.com. It also partnered with Time on a personal finance page, NextAdvisor.
For many of these topics, the focus is on the reviews, which the company then monetizes. Given that this is a big focus for CNET and other locations in its media group, you can see where the synergies could be for Red Ventures.
“Red Ventures believes in the power of premium content from trusted brands to help people make better life choices,” said Ric Elias, CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, in a statement. “Over the past 25 years, CNET Media Group has built a dynamic brand portfolio with well-deserved authority on topics such as consumer tech and gaming, which are increasingly important in people’s lives. Red Ventures is committed to investing in the growth of CNET Media Group with more personalized customer experiences that reinvigorate the CNET Media Group brands and open unprecedented opportunities for all. “
Before being combined with Viacom, CBS acquired CNET and related locations for $ 1.8 billion in 2008. CNET was a true leviathan in online tech journalism and the goal was to create a lot more reach in online media. That deal didn’t include Gamespot, TVGuide, Metacritic, or Chowhound.
The significantly reduced price paid today for a larger group of assets underscores the changing – and often declining – value of more traditional media and publishing brands – even those that are “born” and exist exclusively in digital form – and the difficulties the present market.
But it’s not all bad news. The message from Red Ventures seems to be that even when older, mass-market, ad-based models are under pressure for some – especially in a world where publishers like Facebook and Google continue to make up the lion’s share of online ad revenue – ways to run media companies well as you change models and redefine your expectations of how this business will scale. (There are, of course, alternatives to diversify in other ways, such as building paywalls for premium content, building event businesses, and more.)
Mark Larkin, EVP and GM of CNET Media Group, will continue to lead the business at Red Ventures.
“I’m incredibly excited about the future of the CNET Media Group. I believe that the combination of Red Ventures’ customer experience platform and the rich content and editorial expertise of CNET Media Group will bring great benefits to both our audiences and our partners, ”he said in a statement. “Red Ventures shares our vision and is committed to realizing the full potential of our portfolio of world-class brands.”
The companies announced that the transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.