Viacom bids $40 mil in Sportsline buyout

Deal would give conglom complete control of Netco

Viacom has offered approximately $40 million for the remaining 62% it doesn’t own of Sportsline.com, operator of the CBS Sportsline Web site.

Offer is $1.50 per share in cash; deal would give conglom complete control of the Netco that operates its Internet sports operation.

Viacom’s existing 38% came from payments Sportsline.com has made to CBS in exchange for use of its name and heavy promotion on Eye net sports programming.

Offer preempts the process by which Viacom has slowly been gaining control of the Netco as part of the promotion deal. Remaining equity Sportsline.com owes would have eventually given conglom complete ownership.

But with Sportsline.com stock hovering at around $1, Viacom execs are clearly looking to control more quickly its content and hoping to take advantage of its online advertising and other revenue opportunities.

Move follows recent assertions by Viacom execs that they’re looking to benefit more from interactive advertising.

Sportsline.com’s board and shareholders, which include the National Football League, have to approve the offer.

During the dot-com boom, CBS largely avoided creating its own Internet operations, instead partnering with sites like Sportsline and Marketwatch to create co-branded Web sites.

Sportsline.com shares closed up over 50% at $1.64 Thursday, while Viacom shares were down slightly at $35.51.

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