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Joseph Bellon, 87, Port Washington resident and longtime CBS executive,  has died

Jsephe Bellon, a CBS news executive and industry

Jsephe Bellon, a CBS news executive and industry pioneer. Credit: CBS

Joseph Bellon, a Port Washington resident and longtime CBS News executive, died June 1, according to his son, Greg Bellon.  Bellon, who was 87, had been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

As former director of business affairs for CBS News, Bellon pioneered the development of so-called aftermarkets for CBS News programs, most notably "The 20th Century,"  a weekly documentary-style program on historic events of the century,which was hosted by Walter Cronkite for 219 episodes, from 1957 to 1966. A version of the show, titled "The 21st Century," continued until 1970.  

Bellon re-packaged the series for the videocassette market through CBS’ Columbia House home video unit -- a novel approach novel for any news program, and ultimately a profitable one for CBS News by the late '70s, at the outset of the VHS boom.

As one of the largest producers of news programming in the world at the time, CBS News was free to sell its programs to other outlets after air, but so-called "financial-syndication" rules barred such initiatives for entertainment programs. Bellon spearheaded efforts to sell shows like "60 Minutes" as in-flight programs, while other programs were sold as audio and video cassette series to schools and libraries.

"He saw an opportunity and said 'we should try this,' and CBS gave him a little bit of rope and it grew and grew," said his son, Greg, in an interview. "It ultimately grew from a unit at CBS News into its own division, and became the precursor of CBS Worldwide (Distribution)."

While increasing the ubiquity of CBS News programs, Bellon also built a long term business relationship with longtime "Sunday Morning" host Charles Kuralt, which continued long after Bellon  left the network in 1985. Bellon also became Kuralt's literary agent.

 Beyond news, Bellon developed a home video collection of "I Love Lucy.".

 After leaving CBS, Bellon and his son launched a company, Bellon Enterprises, which secured ties with Tokyo Broadcasting Company. The Japanese broadcaster had a popular home video program, which the Bellons and TV producer Vin Di Bona repackaged as a special that was sold to ABC. The network later ordered  a series based on the special -- "America's Funniest Home Videos." According to Bellon, "to this day my father and I still get a 'coordinating producer' credit on the show."

Born and raised in Astoria, Bellon graduated from Notre Dame University and St. John's University School of Law where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. He later enlisted in the the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, where he served three years active duty.  Along with his son Greg, Bellon is survived by his wife,  Marie, and two other children, Eugene and Marianne, and eight grandchildren.

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