NEW YORK (CNNfn) - A joint venture controlled by News Corp. and Tele-Communications Inc. is reportedly expected to acquire 40 percent of Cablevision Systems Corp.'s sports programming assets for about $850 million.
As a result of the deal, the venture, known collectively as Fox Sports Network, would be better positioned to compete with ESPN, Walt Disney Co.'s pre-eminent cable television sports network.
The deal, which is expected to be announced within days, puts about $2 billion overall value on the sports portion of Cablevision's Rainbow Programming Holdings, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Included in the assets are the world famous Madison Square Garden properties, the Journal said.
For Cablevision, the investment represents an opportunity to reduce its debt-load of about $4 billion, principally from its cable systems. Cablevision, along with ITT Corp., beat out TCI in 1994 for the MSG properties, which include the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and TV programming. Cablevision bought out ITT's stake on March 6.
Fox Sports Network, through News Corp.'s Fox Sports and TCI's Liberty Media Corp., currently owns a chain of 14 regional sports channels. The Cablevision investment will add markets in Boston, Ohio, Florida, Chicago and San Francisco.
Executives from News Corp., TCI and Cablevision declined to comment on the report.