WFXT, virtual channel 25 (UHF digital channel 31), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The station is owned by the Cox Media Group subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises. WFXT's studios are located on Fox Drive (near the Boston-Providence Turnpike) in Dedham, and its transmitter is located on Cabot Street in Needham. It 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, although it was previously owned by Fox on two occasions (1987–1990 and 1995–2014).
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 a.m. 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 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 April 1986, WXNE and the other two CBN stations — KXTX-TV in Dallas–Fort Worth and WYAH-TV in Norfolk, Virginia — were put up for sale. That August, News Corporation announced that it would purchase WXNE, 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.
As WFXT (1987–present)
When the sale to News Corporation was completed on December 31, 1986, the station—renamed WFXT on January 19, 1987, 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 (similarly, CBN spinoff International Family Entertainment would later be acquired in an auction by News Corporation subsidiary Fox Kids Worldwide, thus becoming Fox Family Worldwide, now ABC Family Worldwide, as owners of the newly renamed Fox Family Channel, now Freeform). 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; WFXT was the second station, after producing station WNYW in New York City, to air the program. 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 p.m., 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.
Sale to the Boston Celtics
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' ownership group, who promptly made 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 did not have the financial means to compete as a broadcaster. Nonetheless, under Celtics ownership, WFXT finally began to acquire stronger programming, becoming a serious competitor to WSBK and WLVI for the first time. 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-TV (channel 5) 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.
Return to Fox ownership
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. The outgoing 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, eliminating a potential regulatory conflict with reacquiring WFXT, while WHDH signed with NBC in August 1994 (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). On October 5, 1994, Fox announced it would exercise the purchase option, and retook control of WFXT on July 7, 1995.
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 itself, including games from its four World Series victories in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018).
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 p.m. 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-TV (channel 50, now WWJE-DT) would become the market's MyNetworkTV affiliate when the network began operations on September 5, 2006. Channel 50 ended its affiliation with MyNetworkTV in September 2011, shortly after changing call letters to WBIN-TV; 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 in that area. On July 31, 2008, Charter Communications' system in Westport also became subject to the blackouts; this contributed to WFXT's eventual removal from that system on September 23.
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 briefly became the only network O&O in the Boston area (prior to the launch of NBC Boston in January 2017), and also made WFXT the largest Fox affiliate not owned by the network (prior to the completion of the swap, KTVU held that title). In November 2014, shortly after the closure of the sale, WFXT was briefly pulled from Verizon FiOS in the Boston area for a week due to a discrepancy in contract negotiations.
On October 27, 2015, WFXT dropped the Fox O&O-style branding and introduced a new logo and on-air appearance; the logo was criticized by some viewers for its simplified appearance – omitting the standard Fox network logo in favor of an italicized Helvetica logotype – and received national attention when Larry Potash, anchor of the Morning News on WGN-TV in Chicago, criticized the change as a move by station-hired consultants to help bring in viewers who defected from WFXT's newscasts following the departure of longtime evening anchor Maria Stephanos earlier that year (Stephanos would join WCVB-TV in 2016). Prior to Super Bowl LI in February 2017, the station began downplaying the Fox name from its overall branding; this was reflected in a promo that aired prior to and during the game (which itself used the same music, tagline, and overall format as a 2014 image promotion made by Australia's Seven Network) that referred to the news operation as "25 News".
On April 13, 2017, the station announced that it would rebrand its newscasts as Boston 25 News on April 24, 2017 from then on, the "Fox 25" branding was retained as a generalized identity restricted to WFXT's entertainment programming and station promotions (the move followed a similar split branding structure that Cox Media Group employed when it operated KTVU as a Fox affiliate between 1986 and 2014, in which references to the Fox network were omitted from use within that station's local news programs). General manager Tom Raponi told The Boston Globe that the change was made to eliminate a perception that WFXT's newscasts leaned conservative, which the station attributed to an internal survey taken in 2015 in which 41% of Boston area news viewers that were polled associated its newscasts with the national Fox News Channel, rather than its sister broadcast network (as an affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company, WFXT's only association with Fox News is through a compulsory content arrangement with Fox News Edge, which supplies national and international news footage, and reports from FNC correspondents to Fox stations for inclusion in their local newscasts). In February 2018, the station dropped the "Fox 25" branding entirely and began referring to itself as "Boston 25" full time, including in promotions for syndicated and Fox network programming, making WFXT one of only a handful of Fox affiliates that does not use "Fox" in its branding.
|TV stations in New England|
|WTIC, Hartford/New Haven|
|TV Stations in Greater Boston and southern New Hampshire|
|English stations||Spanish stations||New Hampshire|
|WGBH 2 (PBS)||WUTF 27 (UMas)||WMUR 9 (ABC)|
|WHDT-LD 3 (Ind)||WCEA-LD 58 (Ind)||WENH 11 (PBS)|
|WBZ 4 (CBS)||WUNI 66 (UNI)||WYCN-CD 15 (NBC)|
|WCVB 5 (ABC)||WPXG 21 (Court TV)|
|WHDH 7 (Ind)||WLEK-LD 22 (DrTV)|
|WBTS-LD 8 (NBC)||WWJE 50 (Justice)|
|WFXZ-CD 24 (Biz TV)||WEKW 52 (PBS)|
|WFXT 25 (Fox)||WNEU 60 (TLM)|
|WSBK 38 (MNTV)|
|WGBX 44 (PBS)|
|WWDP 46 (Evine Live)|
|WYDN 48 (Daystar)|
|WLVI 56 (CW)|
|WDPX 58 (Bounce TV)|
|WMFP 62 (SBN)|
|WBPX 68 (Ion)|
|WHDH 5 (ABC/CBS)|
|WNAC 7 (CBS/ABC)|
|WJZB 14 (Ind)|
|WNHT 21 (Ind/CBS)|
|WXPO 50 (Ind)|
|WTAO 56 (ABC/DuMont)|