CBS Adds Last.fm To Growing Online Property List

Embracing the nascent world of content recommendation communities, CBS Corp. yesterday said it would buy Last.fm for $280 million.

Last.fm is one several online communities--including Pandora, MOG, and iLike--where users gather to share musical recommendations, discover new artists, and forge affinities. What sets Last apart is its global reach, thriving community base, and extensive relationships with major music labels--critical to avoiding rights holder and copyright issues.

"We looked at a lot of companies to provide a base for CBS' investment in online reach, and found Last.fm to be poised at an inflection point--balancing fast growth, a sticky community and the opportunity for monetization that does not distract the user," said Quincy Smith, president, CBS Interactive.

Founded in 2002, the U.K.-based Last.fm has attracted some 15 million active users in more than 200 countries. Using its "scrobbling" technology and reference engine, the site builds user profiles based on musical tastes and then leverages user song lists to make highly personalized recommendations, connect users with similar tastes, and provide custom radio streams. In addition, the site has an "Events" listing, which recommends over 200,000 festivals and music events globally.

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Thinking beyond music, however, CBS and Last.fm now plan to extend those recommendation and discovery tools to a range of content, including video in particular.

"CBS understood our strategy from the first meeting and realized how our platform could ultimately apply to all forms of media," said Felix Miller, co-founder and CEO of Last.fm.

The acquisition follows a number of recent CBS Interactive announcements including the purchase of Wallstrip.com, investments in Joost and Spot Runner, and expansion of the CBS Audience Network to include a total of 25 online partners.

CBS's overarching goal behind this series of deals is to create greater scale for its advertisers, according to Patrick Keane, CBS Interactive executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

"Advertisers are looking for greater scale, and, with our native properties, we weren't always able to deliver that when I came on," said Keane, who joined the company in February. (He had previously served as head of ad sales strategy for Google.)

As part of the acquisition, the Last.fm team, including founders Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel and Richard Jones, will continue to independently run the online network. The management team will work with all relevant CBS divisions to apply their community-building and technology expertise to extend CBS businesses online and within the mobile space.

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