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Tribune Media’s Gracenote Acquires Baseline for $50 Million Cash

Tribune Media Co.’s Gracenote entertainment-metadata division has acquired Baseline, which sells film and TV information services to studios and entertainment providers, for $50 million in cash as the company looks to broaden its footprint and better compete with rivals like Rovi.

L.A.-based Baseline, founded in 1981, provides information on more than 300,000 movies and TV projects, filmographies for nearly 1.5 million TV and film professionals, and box-office data for 45 territories. Baseline customers include satellite TV operators, on-demand movie services, Internet companies and online streaming providers including Hulu, Microsoft and Walmart’s Vudu. Baseline’s subscription-based Studio System service, which provides info on production projects in the pipeline, is used by studios, production companies and talent agencies including Warner Bros., Universal and CBS.

Tribune earlier this year acquired Gracenote, which specialized in music metadata, earlier this year from Sony for $170 million and integrated it with Tribune Media Services (TMS) under the Gracenote brand. In July, the company acquired What’s-ON, a TV data provider covering India, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

“The acquisition of Baseline continues our strategy to build upon our existing metadata expertise to advance Gracenote’s leadership in entertainment data and services,” Peter Liguori, president and CEO of Tribune Media, said in announcing the deal.

Tribune acquired Baseline from Project Hollywood LLC, which is majority owned by entrepreneurs Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein. In 2006, The New York Times Co. had acquired what was then called Baseline StudioSystems for $35 million from Hollywood Media, run by Silvers and Rubenstein, before selling it back to them in 2011.

Last month, Tribune appointed John Batter, previously CEO of movie-download service M-Go, to run Gracenote. He said that Baseline’s “deep production data” and existing relationships with studios will improve the depth and breadth of Gracenote’s overall data set and will serve as a foundation to build new products for entertainment industry. He noted that Tribune’s deal for Baseline, which closed Aug. 29, was in the works before he joined.

“The idea is investing in metadata — that’s been the traditional business of legacy Gracenote and legacy TMS, to power consumer entertainment experiences,” Batter said. “We are very comfortable in that position. Today we are focused entirely on B2B customers.”

Meanwhile, Tribune Co. on Aug. 4 renamed itself Tribune Media after spinning off its newspapers, which include the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, to focus on its TV broadcasting, WGN America cable network and digital businesses.

Baseline will add about 50 employees (40 of whom are located in L.A.) to Emeryville, Calif.-based Gracenote, which now has more than 1,000 staffers in 20 offices worldwide. Baseline will continue to operate from its headquarters in Los Angeles.

Gracenote plans to integrate Baseline’s database with its other metadata services, using the proprietary TMS ID asset-tagging system. Gracenote VP of marketing Graham McKenna said the company does not expect any layoffs as a result of the Baseline acquisition, adding that there is minimal overlap among Baseline, TMS and Gracenote in terms of customers and product offerings.

“While the Gracenote legacy business had good info on cast, crew, etc., it was high-level info,” McKenna said. “The data we get from Baseline is essentially the entire cast and crew.” In addition, he said, the Baseline Studio System database represents a new line of business with intel on TV shows and movies in development, in some cases up to two years in advance.

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