It’s only been two weeks since Maria Stephanos left FOX 25, but many people are already speculating about what she’ll do next.
The Boston Herald’s Gayle Fee wrote about Stephanos in the Inside Track yesterday, hinting at some other very possible changes in the Boston TV market. That article is down below.
You can take our poll of what you think her next move will be here.
Fox 25 continues to lose viewers after the departure of Maria Stephanos, and the hottest guessing game in media circles is where WFXT’s departed star anchor will resurface.
“Losing Maria was a blow for Fox,” said one TV insider. “There’s simply no one like her in the market anymore — someone who people tuned in specifically to watch.”
WFXT took a hit in the critical 25- to 54-year-old demographic at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., but held steady at 11 p.m., according to just-released numbers for the September ratings period. Stephanos departed the station on Sept. 11, so the new ratings would include about 2 weeks without her at the helm of those newscasts.
At 10 p.m., a newscast that the Fox affiliate historically has owned, the station still finished in first place ahead of WLVI and WSBK. However, Fox 25 suffered a 15.8-percent decline in viewers in the 25-54 demo (that’s the one advertisers want) from the August ratings period.
And while Fox’s numbers declined, Channel 56 (WLVI) was up 14.6 percent and Channel 38 (WSBK) was up 5.4 percent in the demo, suggesting that some viewers are migrating away from Fox in the wake of Stephanos’ departure.
At 6 p.m., the station lost about .9 percent of the 25- to 54-year-old audience, while at 11 p.m., the numbers were flat.
Meanwhile, Stephanos and her agent declined to comment on her next move, but the hot rumor is that she will land at Channel 4, reunited with her former Fox 25 co-anchor David Wade.
Insiders point out that Gary LaPlante, who was the assistant news director at Fox 25 with Maria, is now the news director at WBZ, and Wade, her former on-air partner, has become the station’s No. 1 male anchor.
“David and Maria were the best young anchor team in town,” said one station source. “It could be like Chet & Nat all over again.”
Well, Channel 4 could use the help. The station finished in third place at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m (behind Fox 25) in the September ratings period and were in last place at 11.
Channel 5 GM Bill Fine is also said to be a fan of Stephanos, but the station reportedly has Heather Unruh under contract for the forseeable future.
Stephanos’ departure also resurrected a long-simmering rumor about the future of Channel 7. NBCUniversal is said to be hot to buy the station, but owner Ed Ansin has thus far refused to sell. However, NBC’s affiliation agreement with Channel 7 runs out at the end of 2016. At which point, the network could yank it’s programming and move it elsewhere — like, say, to NECN, which is owned by NBC’s parent company, Comcast.
“If that happened, it would make sense for them to want to make a splash with their new retooled newscasts by getting someone with Maria’s stature,” said our spy.
In any event, industry sources say it is unlikely Stephanos left her longtime Fox gig without an exit strategy in place. Word is, the new owners, Cox Media Group, tried to keep her on, but Stephanos wasn’t happy with the direction they were taking and decided to leave.
“Maria didn’t want to be a part of what was going forward,” said our source. “The simple conclusion was to find another place to go, and everyone expects that when she left, she had something in her back pocket.”
It’s likely that Stephanos had some sort of noncompete clause that will keep her off the air for some period of time, and her agent, Lisa Hall Mazzaglia, said she’s currently enjoying spending time with her family.
But it’s unlikely that Stephanos is gone from the Boston TV scene forever so, as always, do stay tuned …
(The above material is by the Boston Herald. It is not the property of Boston Media Watch and is strictly being used for informational purposes. No endorsement intended.)
H/T Gayle Fee, Boston Herald