Tribune Hires M-GO Boss John Batter To Run Gracenote, As Digital Head Shashi Seth Departs

JBIt’s been a crazy year for video and audio metadata company Gracenote. In late December its parent company Sony announced the business would be sold to media conglomerate Tribune. That deal closed in February, combining Gracenote with the new parent company’s existing Tribune Media Services metadata business.

And now it has a new CEO.

Six months after the acquisition closed, Tribune has hired M-GO CEO John Batter to lead the Gracenote team as its new chief executive. Starting September 2, he’ll report to Tribune Media CEO Peter Liguori and be tasked with setting the strategic direction and running day-to-day operations of the company. At the same time, Tribune Digital president and interim Gracenote CEO Shashi Seth is leaving.

Batter has a background in media and technology, having worked for companies like M-GO, Dreamworks Animation, and Electronic Arts over the course of his career. At M-GO he worked with consumer electronics companies to embed its digital storefront into their TVs and other products, while also signing deals with major studios to get more content on the platform.

M-GO, which is a joint venture between Technicolor and Dreamworks Animation, has movies available from all the major movie studios, including NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Warner Bros., and, most recently, Disney.

It also scored a huge win recently when Samsung decided to shut down its own Media Hub storefront and replace it with M-GO, making it the default service for purchasing or renting movies and TV shows on the consumer electronics manufacturer’s smart TVs and other connected devices.

So, if M-GO was doing ok, why did Batter choose to join Gracenote?

“Having spent the last three years running M-GO, I have come to realize how important metadata is — not just to M-GO and companies like it, but to the entire ecosystem,” Batter told me in a phone conversation. “I think there’s a lot more that can be done with metadata, and I’m excited about how metadata can be used for search and discovery and personalization.”

That’s right. He’s excited about metadata.

Batter is also excited about joining Tribune and working with Liguori. With the recent spinoff of the company’s newspaper and publishing business, Tribune will have more leeway to expand the Digital side of its business, which includes Gracenote.

“With the spin-off of newspapers, with Peter Liguori becoming CEO, and the rethinking of Tribune and what it might be in the future… That combination makes joining this organization right now a unique time and an exciting time,” Batter said. “You don’t get this type of opportunity that often.”

From a strategic standpoint, Batter sees several different opportunities for expansion, which includes having an even bigger global presence. Tribune already took a big step in that direction through its recent acquisition of What’s On, which will help it expand into new markets like India and the Middle East. There’s also an opportunity to grow in new entertainment verticals, beyond just music and video.

Batter takes over for Tribune Digital exec Shashi Seth, who held the interim CEO role after former Gracenote president Stephen White left earlier this year. Seth, who was brought in to run Tribune’s Digital Ventures unit a little more than a year ago, is leaving the company in the wake of the new hire.

In a statement sent to TechCrunch, Liguori writes:

Tribune Media has decided to focus its digital investment strategy on growing its metadata business globally, which today includes Gracenote and What’s-ON. It is becoming very clear that metadata will help drive the evolution of next-generation TV and music experiences and we believe Gracenote is in an excellent position to drive the industry forward.

Shashi Seth has decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. He contributed enormously to the integration of Gracenote and Tribune and the launch of Newsbeat. We appreciate all that Shashi has done for the company and wish him well in the future.

Gracenote co-founders Ty Roberts and Steve Scherf will continue to work for the company they created.

Meanwhile at M-GO, a company spokesperson tells me that Christophe Louvion has assumed the role of COO, and will oversee day-to-day leadership of the company. Previously CTO, he led the company’s product and technology strategy since it was founded.