Viacom downloads music

Conglom to sell Famous Music

On a day when some of the biggest congloms were making acquisitions, Viacom announced it was making a sale.

Conglom said Wednesday that it’s selling Famous Music, a publishing division that owns rights to scores from Paramount pics such as “The Godfather” and “Mission Impossible,” to Sony/ATV.

Observers put the pricetag at about $370 million.

Sony/ATV, which is owned in part by Michael Jackson, has been looking to beef up its publishing division under new chief Martin Bandier. Bandier was a longtime EMI publishing exec who helped pioneer the idea of licensing library songs to television shows and movies.

Company is thought to be the fourth-largest music publishing division, with songs from artists such as Willie Nelson and the Beatles, but is looking to grow its list.

“Scale becomes a little more significant in the digital space,” Bandier said in an interview. “We’re still fourth behind those companies (Universal, EMI and Warner/Chappell), but we’re in the game.”

Bandier said that with the increasing use of movies on new-media platforms, licensing coin for movie scores can be a significant source of revenue. “There isn’t a day that goes by when one of these movies isn’t being shown in some outlet around the world,” he said.

Famous also controls rights to standards including “Moon River” and songs from contemporary hit artists such as Shakira and Akon.

Bandier also said the company would get into the music production biz through the Famous Extreme banner.

Viacom had been seeking to sell the division for some time, with execs saying it didn’t fit with the company’s portfolio, which includes cable nets and Paramount but no music assets.

Viacom on Wednesday announced that it would initiate a $4 billion stock buyback, a move that would complement a nearly completed $3 billion stock repurchase.

Stock buybacks had been in vogue as media stocks foundered but have become slightly less popular of late now that many repurchase programs are complete and stocks have rebounded.

Finally, at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, the WGA handed out leaflets to attendees and execs in which it called for writers on all Comedy Central shows to be allowed to organize.

Currently, scribes at “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are the only writers on the web’s skeins who have unionized.

The WGA said in a statement that Sumner Redstone had taken one of the leaflets.

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