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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).

Go deeper

Dec 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

SPACs could fuel next round of digital media wars

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Digital media companies are looking to consolidate with the help of SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies), an increasingly popular alternative for businesses to raise money via a public offering, without undertaking a traditional IPO process.

Driving the news: Group Nine Media is considering using a blank-check company to acquire some of its competitors, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Dec 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

Scoop: David Bradley commits to owning National Journal until 2030

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Marvin Joseph (The Washington Post)/Getty Images

David Bradley says he is committed to owning and growing National Journal — the first media company he ever purchased — for at least the next 10 years, according to a memo obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Bradley says his family is selling its controlling interest in National Journal's lucrative research business to Falfurrias Capital Partners (FCP), a Charlotte-based private equity firm that invests in growth-oriented, middle-market businesses.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.