CNET site’s a portal into digital music

Viv U lost about $369 million on MP3.com

HOLLYWOOD — Online media company CNET Networks is re-launching MP3.com, which it acquired from Vivendi Universal in December, as a portal for news and information about the proliferation of digital music stores.

Although CNET has not revealed the price it paid for MP3.com, its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that the Netco paid $3.1 million for it and several other small acquisitions last year. That means Viv U lost about $369 million on MP3.com, based on its acquisition price of $372 million in May 2001.

In addition to news and reviews, new site features a searchable database that allows users to search for a song and click on direct links to purchase it from iTunes, Napster, or any of the other Internet music stores that have different restrictions and file formats.

Site is a companion to Music.download.com, which CNET debuted last week as a way to take over the primary business previously done by MP3.com of offering downloads of independent artists’ music.

“There are some basic things holding back the legal digital music business, like there’s no way to find out which service has which artists, and the new MP3.com is intended to fill that need,” said CNET games and entertainment VP Vince Broady.

Site’s revenue will come from advertising, leads it provides to music stores and research it plans to do on user behavior to sell to labels and other parties.

Move into music marks an expansion for CNET from its traditional focus on technology. Company is considering providing a similar service for television with the TV.com domain, which it owns.