Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks bought closely held Neopets Inc. of Glendale for $160 million, adding the youth-oriented website to a children’s programming lineup that includes “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Rugrats.”
Neopets.com lets people create “virtual pets” and gets more than 5 billion page views a month, Viacom said. Neopets Chief Executive Doug Dohring and other senior managers will stay on after the purchase.
Viacom is adding Web content as it plans to split into two next year, allowing its faster-growing cable operations to trade separately from the CBS broadcast network. Neopets already has spurred plans for a movie with Warner Bros. and Sony Corp. computer games. The purchase will help Viacom expand its merchandising business, MTV Networks Vice Chairman Herb Scannell said.
Neopets.com was founded by British college students Adam Powell and Donna Williams in 1999, according to the company’s website, and now operates in 10 languages.
Site users, who “adopt” pets that live in a world called Neopia, play interactive games, exchange messages and submit stories, poems and comics. Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. is developing a Neopets movie based on the creatures, which are cartoon animals with special powers and habits.
The company, which brings in most of its revenue through advertising, employs about 120 people.