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CNET Hops Aboard Digital Music Wagon

Looking to ride the wave of popularity in the online music space, San Francisco-based tech publisher CNET Networks on Friday announced a deal to acquire the assets of download pioneer MP3.com.

Financial terms of the acquisition, scheduled to close in December, were not released.

In a brief statement, CNET Networks hinted it would use the MP3.com assets to roll out an interactive content site for the online music market sometime next year.

"In 2004, we plan to enter the online music market, which has a very attractive demographic that is similar to our GameSpot Web site, [our] gaming content site. We plan to launch a Web site that will be 'the place you go to know' about music," the company said.

CNET Networks' GameSpot is styled as an online information resource for PC gaming enthusiasts and the early indications are that the company will turn the MP3.com property into a content portal dedicated to the digital music market, which has seen heady growth in recent months.

MP3.com was originally launched in the late 1990s as one of the first destinations that allowed music fans to download free digital files but the company soon ran into legal hot water with the record labels over copyright infringement issues.

The company eventually reached multi-million dollar settlement deals with the record labels and transformed itself into a legitimate music download destination.

The sale of MP3.com by owner VUNet comes on the heels of major buzz in the digital music space where the likes of Apple , Roxio , RealNetworks and America Online are competing to sell fee-based music services.

Offline retail giant Wal-Mart is also in advanced stages of planning for a paid download music score at its Walmart.com subsidiary. A spokesperson for Walmart.com told internetnews.com a music service was "under consideration" but she declined to provide specifics.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart.com is working with Geneva Media to roll out a store with about 200,000 tracks priced at less than 99 cents each.