It's been a week since Bill Hormann ended the 6 p.m. newscast on WTOL-TV, Channel 11, by telling viewers that he was leaving the station, effective immediately.
As it turned out, the shocking announcement -- which came on the final day of November sweeps -- needn't have been so shocking. The anchor was fired Oct. 31 -- the first day of sweeps -- but was sworn to secrecy.
“I told my wife, and that was it,” Hormann said. He didn't even tell Chrys Peterson, whom he calls “simply the best co-anchor I could have ever dreamed to have.” News director C.J. Beutien told her the day before Hormann bid adieu to an estimated 90,000 viewers.
Hormann replaced longtime anchor Jeff Heitz in January, 2001. Although the two newscasts that Hormann anchored (6 and 11 p.m.) were the most-watched in Toledo, the CBS affiliate experienced a sharp decline among viewers age 25 to 54 -- the demographic that generates the most advertising revenue -- in both May and July.
Whether Hormann, 40, deserves the blame for WTOL's tumble is debatable, given that all of the station's newscasts experienced similar declines. But by choosing not to pick up the optional third year of Hormann's contract, WTOL effectively pointed at the new guy on the anchor desk.
Beutien, WTOL's news director since 1993, and the station's general manager, Bob Chirdon, declined comment on Hormann's departure.
On Jan. 13, Peterson will have a new co-anchor -- Terry Thill, who is a WTOL alumnus.
Thill is a weekend anchor for Cincinnati's NBC affiliate, WLWT. (He is known as “Terry Daniels” on WLWT but will revert to his real last name, Thill, on WTOL.) His final day at WLWT will be Dec. 31.
“He has all the potential to be one of the major anchors of the market,” Beutien said. “He tested extremely well in focus groups of Toledo viewers -- among young and old, male and female.”
Thill, 50, worked at WTOL in the early 1980s. He made career stops in Grand Rapids, Mich., Raleigh, N.C., and Boise before landing in Cincinnati nine years ago. “My tour of America, as I like to call it,” he joked.
“He will be a super addition to the lineup of Peterson, [Jerry] Anderson, and [Melissa] Voetsch,” Beutien said. “We are in the position to have the four top anchors in the market.”
The results of the November sweeps are expected to arrive at local stations in about two weeks. The big question that's waiting to be answered: How did WTOL's Hormann-anchored newscasts fare?
By then, though, WTOL will be looking toward the next month-long ratings period (Jan. 30 to Feb. 26), when Thill will be sitting behind the anchor desk.