Netco giving public markets a second try

SAN DIEGO — Online media company IGN Entertainment is going public, filing for an IPO of up to $200 million on Thursday.

Move shows how quickly the market for Internet entertainment has changed, as IGN took itself off the public market in a deal to go private two years ago after its stock was performing anemically in the wake of the dot-com bust.

But with its position as the leading Web site for vidgame news firmly established, recent expansions into other areas that appeal to its core young-male demo and the online advertising biz booming once again, IGN is giving the public markets a second try.

Decision comes even as IGN has been operating in the red. Company revealed in its filing that it lost money for the past several years, including $18.9 million last year and $3.4 million in the first quarter of this year.

IGN and CNET’s GameSpot are the two heavyweights in online vidgame media. In 2003 IGN acquired the industry’s other big player, GameSpy.

Beyond news and reviews, IGN has also recently launched a service to deliver advertising within videogames.

Company has been making moves to extend its brand beyond games. In addition to beefing up its FilmForce site, which reports on the movie biz, it acquired reviews compilation site Rotten Tomatoes last year. Last month it bought online men’s magazine AskMen.com.

Deals have left the company short on resources. As of March 31, it had just $8.9 million in cash on hand and $44.3 million in long-term debt.

Company plans to use $120 million of the IPO proceeds to pay off debt and redeem outstanding equity, with the rest set aside for working capital.

It will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol IGNT. Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, UBS and Jefferies Broadview are handling the IPO.

(IGN and Variety have an editorial partnership for videogame industry coverage.)

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