News Corp's sports channels to cover US

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News Corporation, run by Rupert Murdoch, and TeleCommunications of the US are to pay $850m (pounds 510m) for a 40 per cent stake in Cablevision Corp's sports TV business to create a national US chain of cable-television sports channels.

News Corp and TCI already own nine regional cable networks, called Fox Sports, through their Fox/Liberty Networks venture. Cablevision's Madison Square Garden subsidiary owns the MSG Network, seven regional networks called SportsChannel and the New York Knicks basketball team.

Linking the channels will help the three companies compete with Walt Disney's ESPN, the biggest American sports channel. Analysts expect the deal to launch News Corp and TCI into the prime media markets of New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

"Fans will continue to get their home teams, now along with the great national sports programming supplied by Fox Sports Net,'' said David Hill, chief executive of Fox/Liberty Networks. The combined chain of 17 channels will reach about 55 million homes.