Viacom might unload music publishing business

Viacom wants to unload its music publishing business, Famous Music, months after the conglom lost a bid to buy much larger BMG Music Publishing.

Universal acquired the BMG biz, which has more than 1 million copyrights, in September for $2.1 billion.

Warner Music bid for BMG, too. EMI was interested, as was Gotham’s Zelnick Media.

Music publishing continues to grow even as CD sales contract. Business has become increasingly lucrative from downloads, ringtones, ringbacks and other new services that draw heavily on music libraries.

Viacom, the parent of MTV Networks and Paramount, said in a statement Tuesday it has hired investment bank UBS to “explore strategic alternatives to maximize the value of Famous Music.”

The company was founded in 1928 by Paramount Pictures’ predecessor, the Famous-Lasky Corp., to publish music from its talking pictures.

Famous Music is one of the top 10 music publishers in the U.S, with a catalog of 125,000 copyrights, including songs by Shakira, Daniel Powter, Eminem and Modest Mouse.

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