Belo Corp. has a starring role in the lives of small-screen fans. The company is a leading TV broadcaster with about 20 local television stations serving markets in 10 states, mostly in Texas and Washington. Its portfolio includes affiliate stations of all four major broadcast networks, as well as a few independent stations and affiliates of mini-networks The CW and MyNetworkTV. Two of its highest ranked stations include WFAA (Dallas) and KHOU (Houston). Belo also operates a small number of local and regional cable news outlets, including NWCN (NorthWest Cable News in Seattle) and TXCN (Texas Cable News). Chairman Robert Decherd and his family control about 55% of Belo's voting stock.
The company built its portfolio of TV stations through a series of acquisitions with a focus on major markets in Texas, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Belo operates more than one station in seven of the markets it serves. In these duopolies, the stations typically share back office functions such as sales and finance which helps reduce operating costs. Competition for viewers extends broadly throughout the spectrum of choices available on TV, but within its markets Belo competes most directly against other station groups such as Raycom Media and Sinclair Broadcast Group. Nexstar Broadcasting also has a significant number of stations in Belo's television markets.
Since commercial advertising accounts for the lion's share of Belo's sales, the company struggled with declining revenue through the recession during 2009 due to weak spending by advertisers. It responded by cutting costs through some layoffs and salary reductions. As affiliates of the major networks, Belo's stations are dependent on the quality of primetime programming to attract viewers, but the stations also invest in local news production and other shows to try and boost ratings. Belo is also focused on generating additional revenue from online advertising: Most of its stations operate websites with video, news, and other information. By the end of 2010, Belo was finally able to turn a profit, posting a net income of about $87 million after suffering through three previous years in the red.
Belo was once a multi-media conglomerate with both television and publishing operations. In 2008 the company spun off its struggling newspaper operations as A. H. Belo Corporation in an effort to eliminate drag on its TV business. The company also hoped the move would allow it to focus on increasing its television revenue without the distraction of trying to revive the publishing unit. The newspaper holdings, which included the Dallas Morning News, had accounted for nearly half the company's revenue.
The spin-off ended Belo's involvement in the newspaper business after more than 100 years: founder and namesake Alfred Horatio Belo purchased the Galveston Daily News in Texas in 1876. The company purchased its first TV station in the 1950s.
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