Sep 14, 2020 - Economy & Business

ViacomCBS sells CNET Media Group to Red Ventures for $500 million

Halsey Minor, co-founder of CNET in San Francisco. Photo: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

ViacomCBS has sold its consumer technology digital media arm CNET Media Group for $500 million to Red Ventures, a digital media conglomerate, Red Ventures announced Monday.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of a media behemoth shedding smaller assets to focus on streaming and offload debt.

Details: The acquisition includes all of the brands within the CNET Media Group, including CNET, the 25-year-old consumer technology website; technology business site ZDNet; and Gamespot, a consumer-focused video gaming website.

  • CBS Interactive purchased CNET Networks in 2008 for $1.8 billion, two years after initially splitting with its sister network Viacom, and more than a decade before merging back with Viacom in 2019.
  • Red Ventures has pushed to establish itself in the digital media space with an array of acquisitions. Most notably, it purchased the personal finance website Bankrate in 2017 for over $1.2 billion. In 2019, it acquired Healthline Media, publisher of websites like MedicalNewsToday.com, and Greatist.com, for an undisclosed amount.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ina Fried: CBS bought CNET, in large part, to help accelerate its own move to the internet, which lagged other networks. To that end, CBS has now gotten what it can from CNET, so in that sense it's less needed. (Disclosure: Ina worked at CNET from 2000-2010.)

Flashback: At the time CBS bought CNET, the internet company was under fire from activist investors who bemoaned the company's slim profit margins, while CBS looked to CNET to help jump-start the network's slow embrace of the online era.

The big picture: Pricey mergers are forcing some of the biggest media giants to shed assets that are no longer necessary to their core business, as Axios has previously noted.

Earlier this year, NBCUniversal quietly sold its entire $500 million stake in Snapchat, per The Hollywood Reporter.

  • In 2019, Verizon sold Tumblr for roughly $3 million after Yahoo bought it for $1.1 billion in 2013. (Verizon acquired Yahoo in 2017.)
  • In 2018, Disney wrote down $157 million of its initial $400 million stake in Vice as it was engaged in conversations about buying most of Fox.

Go deeper: Pricey mergers force media giants to offload once-shiny assets

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to show that Gamespot is a brand in the CNET Media Group (not GameStop) and that Yahoo bought Tumblr in 2013 (not Verizon).

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