Under the terms of the agreement, A&E; Television Networks, which is owned by all three companies, will acquire Lifetime Entertainment Services, which is owned by Disney and Hearst.
The channels that will make up the new entity are A&E;, History Channel, Lifetime Television, Biography and a handful of smaller networks.
The deal is part of an ongoing process to reduce and eventually eliminate NBC Universal's stake in the entity. When the transaction is completed, Disney and Hearst each will own 42.5% and NBC Universal, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., will have a 15% stake. The companies said there are "mechanisms" that could require NBC Universal to exit the partnership in 15 years at most.
For NBC Universal, which had a 25% interest in A&E; Television Networks before the combination, the deal makes sense because it will own part of a bigger and more valuable entity, even if its piece is smaller. The company still has a strong group of cable networks of its own, including USA, Syfy, Bravo and MSNBC.
Abbe Raven, president and chief executive of A&E; Television Networks, will oversee the new entity, and Andrea Wong, the high-profile CEO of Lifetime, will report to her.
There will probably be layoffs once the deal is completed. The companies said the combination was expected to "yield substantial cost efficiencies."