NBC Universal has acquired Sparrowhawk Holdings and its global portfolio of pay TV channels from Providence Equity Partners, 3i and management shareholders.

The move represents a major step forward in NBC Universal's strategy to more than double the size of its international cable channels in the next two to three years.

Terms of the deal were not divulged, however the portfolio includes the international Hallmark Channels, which joins NBC Universal's roster of more than 30 channels including Sci-Fi, 13th Street, Studio Universal and Universal Channel brands.

NBC Universal will acquire 18 feeds from the international Hallmark Channels that air across 152 territories to more than 60 million subscribers in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, Latin America and Asia.

'This is a perfect strategic investment for NBC Universal and illustrates our commitment to growing our company internationally,' NBC Universal president and chief executive officer Jeff Zucker said.

'Our combined assets will now allow us to build leading global brands and create scale in the international marketplace. The Hallmark Channels' geographic breadth is of particular importance to us, as it will bolster our position in existing markets and boost our growth in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.'

On completion of the transaction, operations will be merged into NBC Universal's Global Networks division and managed by newly appointed president of global networks and digital initiatives Roma Khanna.

Titles in the Sparrowhawk library will be managed by NBC Universal's television sales division, headed by Belinda Menendez, president of NBC Universal International Television Distribution.