New York Times ( NYT) said Thursday that it agreed to sell its broadcast media properties to a private equity firm for $575 million.

The publishing empire will sell its nine network-affiliated television stations, their associated Web sites and its digital operating center, to Oak Hill Capital Partners. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2007.

The stations serve local audiences in midrange metro markets such as Oklahoma City; Des Moines, Iowa; and Memphis, Tenn.

"These are strong, well-situated stations with very talented employees," said the company in a statement. "Over the years they have provided their communities with high-quality programming and have contributed significantly to our financial performance. We believe, however, that our focus now should be on the development of our newspapers and our rapidly growing digital businesses and the increasing synergies between them."

The publisher of The New York Times and The Boston Globe has been hit by declining revenue and circulation as advertisers cut back on spending and consumers increasingly turn to the Internet for their information needs.

Shares of New York Times closed down 39 cents, or 1.6%, to $23.34 in regular trading hours before the announcement.