Tribune Co. will pay Sony Corp. $170 million for its technology subsidiary Gracenote in a deal that highlights the growing importance of what is called “metadata” — bits of information surrounding electronic media.

Entertainment companies use metadata to guide their customers to content — television, movies and music — and then receive information about what those customers are actually consuming, which can be valuable to media companies and advertisers.

Gracenote initially applied its technology to music. It tracks 180 million songs and is used by Apple, Spotify, Amazon and various car companies and app developers to identify, recommend and organize digital music. But Gracenote has more recently pushed into analyzing television consumption.

Tribune will make Gracenote part of its media services unit, which sells television listings and other data services to major cable providers and set-top box makers.

The deal will make the Tribune unit one of the world’s largest repositories of entertainment metadata as advertisers get new ways to identify and reach customers.