Television

MTV acquires virtual pet company NeoPets for $ 160 million

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MUMBAI: It is a kids marketeers dream acquisition. MTV Networks, owner of youth and kids cable channels MTV and Nickelodeon, has acquired NeoPets Inc., the owner and operator of Neopets.com, the world's largest and fastest growing youth community on the Internet.

The buyout, worth a reported $ 160 million, is clearly aimed at extending the Viacom unit's strengths in children and youth programming to the Internet.

The announcement was made yesterday by Herb Scannell, vice-chairman, MTV Networks and president, Nickelodeon Networks.

Neopets is a global online entertainment network whose members create and care for "virtual pets" that inhabit a mythical land called "Neopia." To date, more than 25 million members worldwide have created Neopets accounts in ten different languages, generating more than five billion pageviews per month. Both Nielsen//NetRatings and comScore Media Metrix consistently rank Neopets.com as one of the top-10 "stickiest" sites on the Web. Pertinently, 79 per cent of its 25 million users are under the age of 17.

Membership in Neopets.com has grown from approximately 90,000 in April 2000 to more than 25 million in May, 2005. Significantly, the site's explosive growth rate has been "viral" - meaning that the impetus for this dynamic growth has been word-of-mouth from user to user, rather than commercial advertising.

"NeoPets is a smart, creative and innovative company that with Doug Dohring's leadership has become one of the most popular and fastest growing sites on the Web. NeoPets users are passionate about the site and its unique offerings, and that is exactly the kind of connection with audiences that MTV Networks cultivates and values," said Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO, MTV Networks. "This property is a perfect fit for MTV Networks, and its acquisition is an important move for us as we aggressively move forward as a multi-platform entertainment company, dedicated to serving our audiences across all the platforms that they use and love."

"NeoPets, like our brands at MTV Networks, is a tremendously successful creative-driven company that is focused on serving its target audience with great content," Scannell commented. "The combination of NeoPets and Nick.com gives us a one-two punch leadership position in the online entertainment space among kids and young adults. The hidden value of NeoPets is the fact that over 60 per cent of its audience is over age 13, which aligns with the audiences of many of our MTV Network brands."

NeoPets Chairman and CEO Doug C. Dohring, as well as the NeoPets senior management team, will continue in their roles following the completion of the acquisition, and will manage the company from its base in Glendale, California. Dohring will report into Jeffrey Dunn, president, Nickelodeon Film and Enterprises.

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