WFXT, virtual channel 25 (UHF digital channel 31), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The station is owned by the Cox Media Group subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. WFXT maintains studio facilities located on Fox Drive (near the Boston-Providence Turnpike) in Dedham, and its transmitter is located on Cabot Street in Needham. WFXT is one of six Boston television stations that are available in Canada through satellite provider Bell TV and cable provider EastLink. WFXT is the largest Fox affiliate by market size that is not owned and operated by the network.
The station first signed on the air on October 10, 1977 as WXNE-TV (standing for "Christ (X) in New England"); Originally operating as an independent station, it was founded by the Christian Broadcasting Network. The station's early programming format was targeted at a family audience, consisting of older syndicated reruns and a decent amount of religious programming (including the CBN-produced program The 700 Club and programs from many other televangelists). Religious programs ran for about six hours a day during the week, and throughout the day on Sundays. The station also carried the daily and Sunday Mass from the Boston Catholic Television Center. Secular programming consisted of westerns, older movies, family-oriented drama series, old film shorts, and classic television series. By 1980, religious programs had been reduced on Sundays to 6:00 to 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. to midnight, and to about four to five hours a day during the week. For several years under CBN ownership, Tim Robertson served as the station's program director, appointed by his father and CBN founder Pat Robertson.
The station began adding more cartoons, made-for-TV movies, and off-network sitcoms and family dramas during the early 1980s. Most notably, in 1980, WXNE took over production of the weekday bowling program Candlepins For Cash, which had just been canceled by CBS affiliate WNAC-TV (channel 7, later WNEV-TV, now NBC affiliate WHDH) after seven seasons. With new host Rico Petrocelli, the show moved production from WNAC's studios, in bowling lanes that were built in the basement of the facility, to the now-defunct Wal-Lex Lanes in Waltham. After only a few months as host, Petrocelli was ousted in favor of the program's original host when it aired on WNAC, Bob Gamere, who remained on Candlepins until it ended its run on WXNE in 1983. During this time, the station rebranded itself as "Boston 25", as it converted into a true independent. While the station was carried only on cable providers in the Greater Boston market, WXNE held a solid third place among the area's independent stations, behind the longer-established WSBK-TV (channel 38) and WLVI-TV (channel 56), and sixth in the ratings among the market's commercial television stations. The station also implemented two significant advertising campaigns, in a bid to compete with the other independents: Boston turn, New England turn, Everybody turn 25 today/tonight! from 1983 to 1985, followed by You Should See Us Now! from 1985 to 1987 (and was later revived in a rearranged form during the Boston Celtics-ownership era of WFXT, as Watch What Happens..Now!).
In 1986, WXNE and several other CBN stations were put up for sale. That October, WXNE was purchased by News Corporation, with plans to make it an owned-and-operated station of its new network, Fox, which had been unable to secure an affiliation with WSBK or WLVI. Until the sale was completed, channel 25 did not air Fox's inaugural program and what was then its lone offering, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, a late-night talk show that aired opposite The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on NBC. The outgoing CBN ownership believed that the program did not fit its strict content guidelines. Fox instead contracted Boston radio station WMRE (1510 AM, now WMEX) to carry the audio portion of the Late Show in the interim.
When the sale to News Corporation was completed on January 19, 1987, Fox changed the station's call letters to WFXT and made a complete overhaul of the station's on-air presentation. At the time this occurred, WFXT became the seventh Fox-owned property and the first to be acquired separately from Murdoch's 1986 purchase of Metromedia's six television stations that served as the foundation for the new network (incidentally, CBN spinoff International Family Entertainment, Inc. would later be sold in July 1997 to Fox Kids Worldwide Inc., a joint venture between News Corporation and Saban Entertainment, renaming itself as Fox Family Worldwide Inc.). WFXT also became the first television station in New England to serve as an owned-and-operated station of a commercial network. Besides adding The Late Show to the schedule, airings of The 700 Club were cut to once a day, and the daily broadcast of the Roman Catholic Mass was moved to an earlier timeslot. The station also began airing the syndicated, Fox-produced tabloid magazine A Current Affair on weeknights. WXNE staff announcer Chris Clausen had already been let go in late 1986 (promptly joining WNEV-TV in January 1987) in favor of the services of Fox affiliate voiceover Beau Weaver, who would remain with both the station and Fox Television Stations for over a decade.
The station's schedule, however, was largely unchanged at the outset, aside from the removal of several older sitcoms that soon resurfaced on WQTV (channel 68, now WBPX-TV). The Sunday evening religious program block was finally discontinued on April 5, 1987, when Fox launched its primetime lineup, which initially aired only on Sundays before expanding to Saturdays that July (as such, WFXT is the only Boston television station that has never changed its network affiliation, as it has been with Fox since the network's primetime expansion).
Over the next few years, WFXT, for the most part was unable to acquire the better syndicated programs and continued to only acquire shows that WSBK, WLVI, and the market's network affiliates passed on. In addition to Fox programming, most of the shows added to WFXT's schedule were low-budget, first-run syndicated programs and cartoons. However, in 1988, the station did manage to buy two popular weekday syndication shows away from WNEV--Hollywood Squares (the then-current John Davidson version) and Entertainment Tonight--when the CBS affiliate phased them off its schedule, due to other programming commitments. WFXT aired Squares through its 1989 cancellation; it carried ET weeknights at 7:00, as the lead-in to A Current Affair, until selling the show back to WHDH (the former WNEV) in 1990. WFXT has again aired ET since 2015.
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibited the common ownership of a television station and a newspaper in the same market, in purchasing channel 25, News Corporation had to apply for and was granted a temporary waiver in order to retain WFXT and the newspaper it had also published, the Boston Herald. In 1989, Fox placed WFXT in a trust company; the following year, it sold the station to the Boston Celtics, who retained Fox as a network affiliation while making WFXT the NBA team's flagship station. The station also gained a sister station on radio, as the Celtics also purchased WEEI (then at 590 AM, now WEZE; now at 850 AM) at the same time. The Celtics, however, did not have the financial means to compete as a broadcaster.
Still, under Celtics ownership, WFXT finally began to acquire stronger programming. In 1990, among securing the rights to several new, high-profile rerun syndication packages, WFXT managed to buy rights to The Cosby Show, reruns of which had been airing on WCVB for the past two years. WCVB, which had lost a lot of money airing The Cosby Show in weekend blocks only, retained a small portion of the show's syndication rights for weekends and occasional airings in primetime (in the event that they chose to preempt an ABC network program). WFXT, meanwhile, began airing Cosby Show reruns on weekdays in the fall of 1990; aside from a couple of years off between 1994 and 1996, The Cosby Show would remain a staple of WFXT's schedule for well over a decade.
By 1992, WFXT was carried on many cable providers in areas of New England where Fox programming was not available. Locally, however, the station was still rated in third place (though not as distant as the CBN or early Fox days), behind WSBK and WLVI. Still, for a while under the Celtics' watch, WFXT was perceived to be in danger of losing its Fox affiliation. One of those instances was in the summer of 1994, when Westinghouse Broadcasting signed a deal to affiliate all of its stations with CBS, which caused WBZ-TV (channel 4) to drop its NBC affiliation and join CBS in January 1995. Existing CBS affiliate WHDH-TV, meanwhile, was deciding between affiliation offers from NBC and Fox, the latter of which its Miami sister station WSVN had been affiliated with since 1989. However, the Celtics soon began dropping hints about its intention to sell the station, including the shift of the team's over-the-air telecasts to WSBK in 1993 (though WFXT officially stated that this was due to the difficulty of scheduling telecasts around the Fox lineup); furthermore, that October, Fox obtained an option to repurchase the station as part of a larger deal. News Corporation sold the Boston Herald in February 1994, opening the door for Fox to exercise the purchase option in mid-1995. WHDH ultimately signed with NBC (if WHDH had joined Fox, they would have only been allowed to carry up to two New England Patriots football games each year, as the team is part of the American Football Conference, while Fox has rights to the National Football Conference; WHDH's affiliation with NBC allowed that station to carry most Patriots games from 1995 to 1997).
As the 1990s progressed, WFXT began phasing in more talk and reality programs. It continued running cartoons each weekday – later becoming the last station in the market that had run a morning children's program block – and sitcoms during the evening hours. WFXT served as the television flagship of the Boston Red Sox for three seasons from 2000 to 2002 (before that and since then, WFXT only carried Red Sox games that were televised by Fox).
At one point, in 2006, the station was "tentatively planning" to carry programming from News Corporation-owned MyNetworkTV (a sister network to Fox) on weekdays from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. if the new network was unable to find an affiliate in the Boston market. On July 21, 2006, News Corporation announced that Derry, New Hampshire-based WZMY (channel 50, now WBIN-TV) would become the market's MyNetworkTV affiliate when the network began operations on September 5. WBIN's affiliation with MyNetworkTV ended in September 2011; WSBK (a CBS-owned sister station to WBZ-TV that had shunned the network at its formation) took over the affiliation at that time. Before MyNetworkTV became a syndication package consisting solely of drama repeats, WFXT occasionally promoted that network's programming.
On October 12, 2007, Comcast began blacking out Fox primetime and sports programming from WFXT on its systems in Bristol County due to an invocation of the FCC's network non-duplication rule by Providence, Rhode Island Fox affiliate WNAC-TV, leaving only channel 25's syndicated programs and newscasts available to that system. On July 31, 2008, Charter Communications's system in Westport also became subject to the blackouts; this contributed to WFXT's eventual removal from that system on September 23; WFXT is also not available on the Verizon FiOS in the Westport area. WFXT was also not available to customers of Verizon FiOS in the Boston area due to a discrepancy in contract negotiations for a short period in 2014.
Trade to Cox Media Group
On June 24, 2014, Fox announced that it would trade WFXT and Memphis sister station WHBQ-TV to the Cox Media Group, in exchange for the San Francisco duopoly of Fox affiliate KTVU and independent station KICU-TV. The trade was completed on October 8, 2014. Following this deal, CBS-owned WBZ-TV became the only network O&O in the Boston area and also made WFXT the largest Fox affiliate not owned by the network (prior to the completion of the swap, KTVU held that title).
On October 27, 2015, WFXT dropped the Fox O&O-style branding and introduced a new logo and on-air appearance. The new logo does not include the actual Fox network logo, instead simply incorporating the word "Fox" spelled out in normal text.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|25.1||720p||16:9||WFXT DT||Main WFXT programming / Fox|
WFXT's analog signal began malfunctioning on November 1, 2008 as a result of a failing transmission line, forcing the station to reduce its power. By December 9, the transmission line had deteriorated to the point that the station's effective radiated power was reduced to levels where viewers could then only receive the station via cable, satellite or its digital signal in most areas. The station then began to state that the possibility existed that its analog signal might have to be shut down ahead of the analog-to-digital transition deadline for full-power stations, which at that time was scheduled for February 17, 2009. In the end, the station's analog signal remained on the air even after that date (a result of the transition being delayed to June 12); however, due to the continued failure of the transmission line (to the extent that the station estimated its analog signal was only reaching 3% of its former coverage reach, with no signal at all at the station's Dedham studios), WFXT shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 25, on February 27, 2009, becoming the second English-language major network station in Boston to exclusively transmit a digital signal (WZMY terminated its analog signal in December 2008) and the only Fox-owned station to shut down its analog signal prior to the new June 12 transition date. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 31. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 25.
Many Boston area residents complained about poor reception from WFXT's digital signal compared to the market's other major television stations. This was due to the fact that the transmitter previously operated at a reduced power output of 78 kilowatts from an antenna mounted below one of the tines of the Candelabra tower in Needham. WFXT's vice president of engineering Bill Holbrook stated publicly that the digital signal would not reach full power until August 2009, when installation of a new antenna and transmitter was expected to be completed. However, the signal upgrades were completed in April 2009, giving WFXT a signal considered to be on par with the Boston market's other full-power stations. The new antenna and transmission feedline had been replaced two weeks earlier. The license to cover was filed on April 23, 2009.
WFXT presently broadcasts 64½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (10½ hours on weekdays, 5½ hours on Saturday and 6½ hours on Sunday); in regards to the number of hours devoted to locally produced newscasts, it is the largest newscast output of any station in the Boston market and the state of Massachusetts. During weather segments, the station utilizes live National Weather Service radar data originating from a radar site at the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Taunton.
One of the few productive moves that WFXT made under the ownership of the Boston Celtics was entering into a news share agreement with regional cable news channel New England Cable News (NECN) to produce a primetime newscast at 10:00 p.m., which debuted on September 7, 1993. The half-hour Fox 25 News at 10 was initially anchored by Heather Kahn, with Tim Kelley on weather. Kahn lasted a year in this role before she was hired by ABC affiliate WCVB-TV (Channel 5); Lila Orbach replaced her as anchor. In September 1994, NECN began to produce a half-hour midday newscast at 12:30 p.m. for channel 25, which was subsequently canceled.
WFXT opted not to renew its contract with NECN in September 1995, with the final broadcast airing on October 1; the next day, NECN moved the newscast to WSBK. For the next year, the only news programming on WFXT consisted primarily of national updates supplied by Fox News that aired during the day. During this time, Fox Television Stations created an in-house news department for the station, culminating in the September 9, 1996 launch of a new 10:00 p.m. broadcast, initially branded as Fox News Boston before reviving the Fox 25 News title the following year. The 10:00 p.m. newscast has aired as an hour-long program since its inception, originally airing in the format on Monday through Saturday nights, while the Sunday edition aired for a half-hour in order to accommodate a sports highlight program, Sports Sunday on Fox; Sports Sunday ended its run on May 16, 2004, with the Sunday edition of the 10:00 p.m. newscast expanding to an hour the following week.
Over the next decade, channel 25 gradually expanded its news operation. On June 4, 2001, WFXT added a 4:30 p.m. newscast (making it the first Fox-owned station to have produced a newscast during the 4:00 p.m. hour) that was anchored by Jodi Applegate and was targeted at a female audience. By September 2002, the program had moved to 5:00 p.m., and on September 22, 2003, it was expanded to an hour and began using the same anchors and a similar format as the 10:00 p.m. broadcast, as Applegate became co-anchor, along with former WHDH-TV sports director Gene Lavanchy, of a three-hour weekday morning newscast from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. that launched the same day. One year later, Applegate left WFXT to become co-anchor of Good Day New York on New York City sister station WNYW and was replaced by former WHDH and WBZ-TV anchor Kim Carrigan. Concurrent with the debut of the morning newscast, WFXT unveiled a 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2) newsroom similar to that of WHDH, which also serves as the station's news set; it remains in use to this day. Channel 25 also opened a news bureau on Beacon Hill near the state house in downtown Boston, which serves as an interview location for Massachusetts lawmakers as well as a home base for weekday morning commentator Doug "V.B." Goudie.
The station debuted an hour-long Sunday morning newscast at 9:00 a.m. on September 12, 2004; the program was cancelled in July 2009. On May 19, 2009, WFXT and the CBS-owned duopoly of WBZ-TV/WSBK-TV entered into a Local News Service agreement, which allows the stations to share local news footage, along with a helicopter for traffic reports and breaking news. The helicopter originally used as part of the sharing agreement (which WFXT and WBZ/WSBK stopped using in 2013) was involved in a crash that killed two people in Seattle on March 18, 2014, while on loan by Helicopters, Inc. for use by KOMO-TV during technical upgrades to that station's own helicopter. On June 14, 2009, starting with its 10:00 p.m. newscast, WFXT became the last station in the Boston market to begin broadcasting its newscasts in high definition.
WFXT launched a Sunday through Friday 11:00 p.m. newscast on November 5, 2007; the weekday morning newscast has also expanded since its launch, and has aired from 4:00 to 10:00 a.m. since July 9, 2012. The 5:00 p.m. newscast, which consistently placed fourth in its timeslot, was discontinued in favor of a half-hour 6:00 p.m. newscast on September 14, 2009. That program was expanded to one hour with the launch of an additional half-hour newscast at 6:30 p.m. on March 14, 2011, which competes against the national network newscasts airing in the timeslot on WBZ, WHDH and WCVB. On July 7, 2012, WFXT expanded the 6:00 p.m. newscast to Saturday and Sunday evenings; as is common with Fox stations that carry early evening newscasts on weekends, the newscast may be subject to delay or preemption due to network sports telecasts overrunning into the timeslot. On October 7, 2013, WFXT relaunched its 5:00 p.m. newscast after a four-year hiatus.
Under Cox ownership, a number of significant changes began to occur within WFXT's news department. On November 13, 2014, Doug Goudie, who was well known for his commentary segments during the station's morning show, was released from the station; he stated that his presence did not align with Cox's "philosophy", since they "aren't big on opinions." The removal of "V.B." came as part of a retooling of the Morning News into a conventional newscast, rather than a morning show emphasizing light talk and interview segments (such as Goudie's "Heavy Hitters"). The station restored the weekend morning newscasts in September, 2015.
Notable current on-air staff
- Gene Lavanchy – Fox 25 Morning News co-anchor
- Sara Underwood – Fox 25 Morning News co-anchor
- Butch Stearns – (sports director 1999–2009, reporter 2013-current)
Notable former on-air staff
- Jodi Applegate – anchor (2001–2004); later at WNYW and WPIX in New York City
- Erin Hawksworth – reporter; later at WJLA in Washington, D.C.
- Jim Polito – weeknight commentator (2012–2014)