Cable Operators

Two Texas News Nets Shuttered

7/23/2004 5:05 PM Eastern

Time Warner Cable and Belo Corp. are shutting down the local news channels they jointly owned in Houston and San Antonio, with nearly 200 employees losing their jobs, officials said Friday.

Those two Texas cable networks were part of a Time Warner-Belo joint venture that is being discontinued. But Time Warner said that a third local news channel that had been included in that joint venture, News 14 Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., will remain on the air and become part of the MSO.
Time Warner operates six other local news channels, including one in Raleigh, N.C., and the company said “both the Charlotte and Raleigh News 14 Carolina operations will work together to create greater efficiencies.”
It hasn’t exactly been determined yet, but that could mean merging the Charlotte news-channel operation into Raleigh’s, or turning the Charlotte operation into a bureau, according to Time Warner spokesman Mark Harrad.
The immediate shutdown of News 24 Houston and News 9 San Antonio, due to the competitive nature of the two markets, will result in the termination of 190 full-time and part-time employees.
Belo released its second quarter results Friday, and said that since the joint venture started — it was announced September 2000 — through June 30 Belo has incurred $18.7 million in losses.
Belo has contributed $37.8 million to the joint venture, resulting in a net investment of $19.1 million as of the end of the second quarter.
Harrad and other Time Warner officials said that the MSO remains committed to local news, despite the closing of the channels in Houston and San Antonio.
“We look at local news as an important community service and a way to distinguish ourselves from the competition,” John Billock, the MSO’s chief operating officer, said in a prepared statement. “While the joint-venture channels delivered a quality product, they were not able to achieve the kind of sustainable audience growth on a stand-alone basis which is required for long-term viability.”
Ironically, the Houston and San Antonio’s toughest competition was TV stations owned by Belo.
“Each of these markets has well-established competitors, including Belo’s own broadcast stations that made it difficult for a new brand to gain a foothold,” Jack Sander, Belo’s president of media operations, said in a prepared statement.
“Belo continues to provide outstanding news leadership to its local communities through KHOU-TV in Houston, WCNC-TV in Charlotte, and KENS-TV in San Antonio.”
In addition to Charlotte and Raleigh, Time Warner operates local news channels in New York City, Rochester, N.Y., Austin, Texas, Albany, N.Y., and Syracuse, N.Y.

September