News Corp. to buy IGN Entertainment for $650 million

News Corp. has agreed to acquire IGN Entertainment Inc., which owns a network of Web sites for gaming enthusiasts, for about US$650 million in cash, News Corp. announced on Thursday.

The deal is part of News Corp.’s strategy to boost its presence on the Web and broaden the content it offers. It has also announced plans recently to buy Intermix Media Corp., which owns the social networking site MySpace.com, for $580 million, and Scout Media Inc., which publishes local sports magazines and Web sites.

The three companies combined would increase News Corp.’s U.S. Web traffic to 70 million unique monthly visitors, it said.

IGN’s game-related properties include GameSpy, TeamXbox and GameStats.com. It also owns the “lifestyle” Web site AskMen.com, and provides technology for online gaming. The company has 28 million unique users, said New York-based News Corp.

If the deal goes ahead, IGN and its network of sites will become part of News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media unit. The sites will provide “a powerful cross-promotional opportunity” for Fox’s television and film content, News Corp. said, offering a rational reminiscent of America Online Inc.’s merger with Time Warner Inc. in 2000.

The companies hope to close the deal by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approvals. If the deal goes through, Mark Jung, IGN’s chief executive officer, will continue in his role, reporting to the president of Fox Interactive Media, Ross Levinsohn.

Founded in 1999, IGN is based in Brisbane, California, and had 291 employees as of June 30, according to its Web site.

News Corp. had been rumored to be on the hunt for another big Internet purchase. Several major U.S. dailies reported last month that it was in talks to buy Internet search startup Blinkx.

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