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News Corp buys regional sports channel in Ohio

By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - News Corp said on Friday it bought SportsTime Ohio, a Cleveland-based regional sports network that broadcasts Cleveland Indians baseball games.

The company did not disclose financial details. A source close to the matter said on Friday the deal was worth roughly $230 million, which Reuters first reported on December 3.

The network, owned by the Cleveland Indians baseball team, also airs programming on the Cleveland Browns National Football League team, college football and high school sports.

Fox said it a statement it also struck a separate long-term TV rights agreement to air Cleveland Indians baseball games. Fox will pay the team about $40 million per year for more than 10 years as part of a new agreement, according to the source close to the matter.

Fox already owns a regional sports channel in Ohio, called Fox Sports Ohio, which is available in 5 million homes. It held the rights to Cleveland Indians games until 2006.

Fox Sports, which operates or holds stakes in 20 regional sports networks, provides sports programming to more than 67 million subscribers.

New York-based News Corp has been stepping up efforts to control the rights to key sports teams in response to Time Warner Cable Inc's $3 billion deal in February 2011 to carry the Los Angeles Lakers basketball games on its Time Warner SportsNet Channel.

Last month, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp said it would buy a 49 percent stake in the YES network, a sports channel controlled by the New York Yankees baseball team, a deal that sources said was valued at $3 billion. Reuters has reported that Fox is also negotiating a 25-year extension of its existing agreement to carry Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games and could pay as much as $6 billion for those rights.

News Corp is planning to separate its publishing and entertainment assets into two publicly traded companies next year. News Corp's regional sports networks, film and television businesses, which currently include the 20th Century Fox film studio, Fox broadcasting network and Fox News channel, will be part of the renamed parent company that will be called Fox Group.

News Corp shares were trading 9 cents lower, or 0.3 percent lower at $24.81 per share.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Dan Grebler and Andrew Hay)

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