Tribune Media(TRCO) - Get Report , which pledged last month to return capital to shareholders, on Tuesday said it will sell its video and music data business Gracenote to Nielsen(NLSN) - Get Report for $560 million.
Tribune, owner or operator of 42 local television stations that reach about 50 million U.S. households, as well as WGN America, also said it will pay a special dividend of $500 million in the first quarter to stockholders and continue its existing $400 million share repurchase plan.
The seller will retain business-to-consumer websites Covers.com and ProSportsDaily.com. It anticipated closing the deal in the first quarter of 2017.
Tribune shares Tuesday morning were up 3.7% to $35.70. Nielsen stock was flat at $43.29.
The divestment of its digital business and the announcement of a special dividend come nearly six weeks after Tribune lowered its revenue forecast for 2016 by $100 million, citing weaker-than-expected political advertising sales. On Nov. 9, Tribune said it expected revenue for the year to total between $2.15 billion and $2.18 billion, compared with an earlier forecast of $2.25 billion to $2.28 billion.
Heading into the company's third-quarter earnings report, the consensus analyst estimate was for $2.24 billion.
Tribune acquired Gracenote in February 2014 for $170 million from Sony's (SNE) - Get Report American arm in an effort to enter a digital business it viewed as a growth opportunity. Yet Gracenote, combined with the existing Tribune Media Services into a larger operation with the Gracenote name, has proven to be more of a sideline than a central part of Tribune's business. In an effort to focus solely on its television stations, Tribune has sold real estate holdings tied in large part to the newspaper business it spun out in 2014, forming the company now known as Tronc (TRNC) , owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, among other major dailies.
Donald Trump's unorthodox political campaign translated into less political ad spending than usual for a major presidential candidate, putting more pressure on the company's finances.
Political ad revenue totaled just $37 million across all of Tribune's TV stations in the third quarter, roughly one-third less than forecast.
Though Tribune said the special dividend will be paid from existing cash, the Gracenote sale follows the company's declaration last month that it planned to take concrete steps to lower its debt. Tribune's long-term debt stood at $3.4 billion at the end of the third quarter, little changed from year-end 2015.
Tribune said the majority of the estimated $500 million in after-tax sale proceeds would go to debt repayment, with the rest reinvested in the business.
"From a strategic standpoint, we are pleased to be streamlining our company so that we can focus even more intently on seizing future opportunities for our local television and entertainment business," Tribune CEO Peter Liguori said in a statement.
Gracenote is used by the television and music industry to identify streaming songs. Its user data is used by services such as Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Report Xfinity, Apple(AAPL) - Get Report Music and Spotify to sell advertising. Nielsen is expected to use Gracenote to keep track of video and music played across multichannel video platforms, smart TVs, streaming music services and in-car media systems from automakers including Toyota(TM) - Get Report and BMW.