European regulators have pried NOW That's What I Call Music! from Universal Music Group's hands, ensuring they won't reap any more profits from one of the music industry's perennial bestsellers.
Universal had to give up the reliably profitable album series — which has been compiling hit pop songs in the U.K. since 1983 — because EU antitrust authorities required the company to divest some of its holdings in exchange for approval of their $1.9 billion purchase of EMI in 2011. A joint venture between Sony, EMI, and Universal, NOW has sold 200 million albums worldwide since their inception. But on Wednesday, Universal announced that it had forked over EMI's share to Sony for the reported price of $60 million.
$60 million! For those of us who've reached a certain age, NOW might seem like a nostalgia relic. Who among us doesn't have those frantic infomercials seared deep within his or her brain?
But NOW remains very much of the moment, it seems. Apparently selling a product that's essentially Top 40 radio without the DJs and commercial interruptions is still a gift that keeps on giving to a music industry that has seen total annual revenues rise only once in the last 13 years. The compilation series expanded to the U.S. in 1998, and Universal retains its joint ownership of NOW here. The 45th release in their stateside series is currently holding strong at No. 4 on the Billboard albums charts.