Viacom to Unload Rock Band Unit

Viacom Inc. is telling the band to pack up and go.

The New York-based entertainment company is preparing to unload its Harmonix videogame division, maker of the popular “Rock Band” line of games.

Viacom on Thursday reported profit for the latest quarter fell 59 percent after it took $260 million in write-downs related to Harmonix, which has long been a drag on the bottom line.

Harmonix has been on the block since September, and Viacom is now in deal talks with both videogame companies and private-equity firms, according to people familiar with the matter. Viacom is expected to hold an auction, and as many as four companies might participate, one of those people said.

Viacom bought Harmonix in 2006 for $175 million, and made an additional $150 million payment in 2008 as part of the deal. But for much of that time the unit has been locked in brutal competition with rival game “Guitar Hero,” from Activision Blizzard Inc., which is roughly 60 percent-owned by Vivendi SA.

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