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Gracenote Stays On M&A Tear

Keeping its eye fixed on global growth opportunities, Gracenote's buying binge continued Thursday as the company announced it is shelling out $19 million for HWW, an Australia-based provider of TV and movie data to a range of pay-TV operators and on-demand and program guide services.

Gracenote, which counts Rovi among its competitors in the entertainment data sector, said the acquisition of HWW from Mi9 (owned by Nine Entertainment Co.) will enable it to expand its reach into the Australian TV and digital entertainment market and position it for further growth in the larger Asia Pacific region.

Sydney-based HWW has about 40 customers across the region, including Foxtel, Telstra, Freeview,  Fetch TV, Samsung and Yahoo, and a database with about 30,000 movies and 117,000 TV series. HWW has about 25 employees

Gracenote, now under new CEO John Batter, the former chief of M-GO, has been on somewhat of an M&A tear as it looks to expand and broaden its core platform and spur global growth. Last month, it put up $50 million for Baseline, another movie and TV data service. In July, Tribune Digital Ventures (now integrated with Gracenote) acquired What’s-ON, a TV search and electronic program guide data provider for India and the Middle East, for $27 million. With the HWW deal factored in, Gracenote has shelled out nearly $100 million for a set of acquisitions.

The HWW deal, Batter said, keys on the international component of Gracenote’s three-pronged growth strategy. It’s also looking to expand by broadening the quality and breadth of its core metadata platform for music and video and by attacking new verticals, such as sports and video games.

“Many global customers are asking us to expand internationally as their footprint expands internationally. They’re looking for us to be [their] one-stop-shop on a global basis,” Batter said.

While Rovi is considered Gracenote’s primary competitor, the market is still made up of many local and regional players. Some of those players might fit into Gracenote’s future M&A activity as the company decides where it’s best to buy into the market or build something that is tailored for specific international markets.  

“We’ll continue to expand internationally pretty aggressively and look at it on a market-by-market basis,” Batter said. “Europe is certainly a place of emphasis,” he added, pointing to Gracenote’s existing business in that region with TiVo, Virgin Media, and Com Hem, among others.

Tribune Co. completed its $170 million acquisition of Gracenote from Sony Corp. of America earlier this year and has since integrated Gracenote with Tribune Media Services (TMS).