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CBS ups social networking ante with Last.fm acquisition

Network buys online music site for $280 million in cash

By Heather Havenstein
May 30, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In another move to build out its social networking presence, CBS Corp. announced Wednesday that it has acquired Last.fm Ltd., a social network for music fans, for $280 million in cash.

London-based Last.fm, which claims 15 million active users in 200 countries, allows users to create communities of interest that include both listeners and musicians. The Last.fm site includes a social recommendation engine that builds a profile of each listener's tastes and provides links to other users with similar tastes. The site, which was founded in 2002, also provides custom radio streams.

The move is the latest in a string of announcements by CBS in recent months to build out its social networking offerings. Just last week the company announced that its CBS Interactive unit has partnered with a slew of Web sites and social application vendors to allow their users to incorporate CBS clips into their personal profiles, Web sites, blogs, widgets and community pages.

The CBS moves follow a March announcement by rivals NBC and News Corp. about plans to jointly create a video sharing site like the popular YouTube site.

The Last.fm user demographics meld with CBS' goal of attracting younger viewers and listeners across its business lines, said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS. "Last.fm adds a terrific interactive extension to all of our properties and also is a huge step in CBS Corp.'s overall strategy of expanding our reach online to transition from a content company into an audience company," he said in a statement.

Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, said the company looked at multiple different acquisition possibilities as a base to expand its online reach. Last.fm, he added, is "balancing fast growth, a sticky community and the opportunity for monetization that does not distract the user."

The founders of Last.fm will continue to independently run the social network, CBS said.

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