Times Co. Buys Film, TV Database

Bolstering its standing as an online entertainment hub, The New York Times Co. on Monday announced its acquisition of film and television database Baseline StudioSystems for $35 million in cash from Hollywood Media Corp.

Through the deal, the Times Co. aims to increase the drawing power of the movie and TV sections of its Web site by offering broader and deeper content. It also gains a subscription-based information service used by Hollywood studios and production companies.

The move "supports our plan to build the authoritative online destination for the entertainment consumer and for the industry," said New York Times Company President and CEO Janet L. Robinson, in a prepared statement. Over the last year, the Times Co. has focused especially on building up its Web-based movie and TV sections by adding video clips, blogs by Times critics, and user-contributed ratings and reviews.

The Times plans to incorporate Baseline's syndicated data such as actor and other biographies, professional credits, and film and TV project histories. "The Baseline data, in terms of film and TV credits and biographies together with our movie and TV criticism, is a home run," said Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com. "The more traffic we have, the more visibility we have, and the happier our advertisers will be."

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Hollywood studios are among the major advertisers for the company's entertainment sections, said Schiller. Because such companies are already familiar with the Baseline database, the acquisition would only help NYTimes.com to strengthen its business ties to the entertainment industry, she said. By expanding the community-building aspects on its movie and TV sites, Schiller added, traffic had increased "exponentially" in the last year. Among the most popular additions have been the video "Movie Minutes" featuring Times critics and blogs such as David Carr's "The Carpetbagger," which appeared during the awards season, and the more recent "Screens" blog, focusing on TV and video, by Virginia Heffernan.

The Times' movie site already includes information on upcoming releases provided by All Movie Guide, owned by rival database All Media Guide. Schiller said the site would continue to include information from All Movie Guide. The Times will also continue to syndicate Baseline entertainment data that already appears on Yahoo and other sites.

The majority of Baseline's revenue currently comes from the subscription-based side of its business catering to Hollywood. Its overall revenues are expected to be about $6 million this year--and its operations are "highly profitable," according to a joint press statement.

Baseline will remain a separate unit based in Santa Monica, Calif., with its current leadership of Rafi Gordon and Alex Amin reporting to Schiller.

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