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Viacom’s got game

Conglom buys online gaming company for $102 mil

Continuing the major media congloms’ Internet buying spree, Viacom has acquired online gaming company Xfire for $102 million.

Founded only two years ago, Xfire is a communication and community service for videogames on PC. It’s frequently used by gamers for popular online titles like “World of Warcraft” to keep track of, and talk with, friends who are playing.

Like Viacom’s other Net purchases, such as IFilm and Neopets, Xfire will be integrated into MTV Networks. Netco should give MTV a new outlet to reach that most elusive demo: young males.

“On both a strategic and an economic level, this is a terrific deal for Viacom,” CEO Tom Freston boasted. “Xfire is … a perfect fit with our growing digital businesses at MTV Networks. It’s a bull’s-eye against our young audiences.”

Netco has more than 4 million registered users and makes its money entirely through advertising.

MTV Networks will be able to use it to expand inventory of ad space targeted at young males, as well as to promote its other properties to the Xfire audience.

Deal is somewhat similar to News Corp.’s acquisition of MySpace, as it brings to a conglom a community site with a large and loyal aud that may prove resistant to efforts to alter the site dramatically to integrate it with other properties or generate more ad revenue.

Last year, Yahoo filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Xfire over its chat program. Dispute was settled out of court in February.

Viacom and News Corp. have both been extremely active in the past year, scooping up growing Netcos focused on content or community. Only a handful of independent players, such as AtomShockwave and CNET Networks, are left on the Web.

Shares in Viacom closed up half a percent Monday at $38.98.

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