HLN is a 24-hour news network that was spun off from CNN, though the "news" part is currently questionable. The channel was established as CNN2 in 1982, partly in order to double-team ABC and Westinghouse's Satellite News Channel (which had a similar format) out of existence, and changed its name to CNN Headline News the following year, although use of the word "CNN" in the title was always fairly intermittent. Its original focus was a 30-minute newscast called Headline News which filled viewers in on the day's most prominent stories in a half-hour "wheel" format resembling the news radio stations found in large urban areas, repeated on a 24-hour loop, thus allowing viewers to catch up on a day's worth of news in just half an hour, any time of the day (something that is very useful in places like airports and bars). This was best demonstrated in quick promos aired on other Turner networks in the early 90s- we see a really boring looking show, before an announcer points out "You could be watching the news right now." and a remote switching the image to Headline News.
There would be general news at the top and bottom of the hour taking up half the program, personal finance reports (known as "Dollars and Sense") at the 15 minute mark, "Headline Sports" at 20 minutes, the "Hollywood Minute" immediately after, and lifestyle reports in the last five minutes (or on some cable systems, a local news update provided by the cable system or a local TV station). This is the format that CNN Headline News enjoyed for over twenty years.
In this form Headline News was also easily adaptable for radio, and stations that wanted a dependable "all-news" format would air the audio of the network, giving Headline News a second, though less obvious audience. It also syndicated its live feed to broadcast channels that wanted to air something other than a test pattern between 2:30 and 5-6:00 am.
After Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting (the channel's original owner), a few revamps were done; one in 1999 when the 30-minute newscast was split into four for different daypartsnote , and another in 2001, which changed the logo, graphics and music, and introduced a "border" around the anchor which contained excessive amounts of information and took up most of the screen. This change earned the network much lampooning and criticism, being called a "jumbled mess" by USA Today. In 2005, the network responded to these criticisms by scaling back the amount of on-screen information. However, the change was likely justified as many viewers started getting basic news without elaboration from the Internet, and the network began to lose audience and purpose as they realized that only an older audience needed the data-packed half-hour format as time went on.
This forced a slow shift in direction for the network. It also started airing live programs in Prime Time (moving the rolling news coverage back to daytime) and putting a greater focus on celebrity news, violent crimes and missing white women. Network Decay was setting in at the network (which would be renamed HLN, after its EPG abbreviation, in 2008), but the shift was proving to be a success, earning the network higher ratings than it ever did as well as reducing the amount of celebrity coverage on CNN. Time Warner also created an artificial format change in 2009, as HLN's sister network Court TV was rebranded to TruTV with a reality format, and most of their trial coverage bumped over to HLN, a change pretty much done in 2013, as TruTV's "trial coverage" existed for only a couple hours after court opens in the east (making it pointless to cover trials west of the Rockies on that program); it was finally put out of its misery in the summer of 2013.
With the retirement of the final old-line Headline News anchor, Chuck Roberts in 2010, the final strings from the old format were broken, and now the rolling news block features most of the elements of the evening portion of the schedule. The Casey Anthony trial took over the entire network over the spring and summer of 2011, taking Adored by the Network to its most absurd extreme. The Anthony template was repeated in early 2013 with the trial of Arizona's Jodi Arias, then George Zimmerman's trial in Florida.
Towards the end of 2013 however with Jeff Zucker firmly in charge of CNN, he inexplicably put the former head of Nickelodeon Albie Hecht in charge, who immediately canceled some shows, let some people go, and added even more pre-recorded shows to the weekend schedule, including a health block called Upwave, which immediately bombed because it was put on Sunday night, the lowest viewed night in cable news where everyone else is watching anything but that (CNBC had a diabetes education show in the same timeslot for years with the same ratings woes). The focus of the network is now more well away from news; you're more likely to run into a Forensic Files rerun than anything else. Zucker also decided to de-emphasize trial coverage due to a 'downmarket' perception of the audiences they attracted, though social media hasn't taken that change positively in any way.
The network attempted to appeal to younger viewers by literally gleaning "stories" from someone's Facebook news feed, and trying to do docusoaps about YouTube stars and social media. That effort didn't last long, however; Albie Hecht was finally forced out of the network in November 2015. The new format pretty much caused the ratings to crash down, leaving more time for endless Forensic Files reruns. Much of the network's late night has been replaced by syndicated and library content instead of actual news, while the live news programming with uninformative content pretty much is the reason why young viewers are fleeing cable news in droves. There was also talk of Time Warner purchasing the alternate news site Vice and merging HLN's operations into it, turning it into a network competing with Pivot or Fusion instead with longform news programming. Eventually however even that didn't work out, as upon seeing the mess HLN was in, Vice decided to partner with A&E to turn H2 into Viceland instead.
Jeff Zucker's new plan was to veer back towards traditional news programming; executives have stated that they wanted HLN to have a schedule more like CNN, but focusing more on "regional" news, entertainment, and of course, crime (as opposed to national stories and what Donald Trump did); in 2016, both Dr. Drew and Nancy Grace left, and several CNN anchors jumped ship to HLN, such as Ashleigh Banfield (hosting Nancy Grace's de facto replacement Primetime Justice, Erica Hill, and "mainstream conservative" pundit S. E. Cupp. In 2017, HLN began to make an effort towards original programming again, although their newest entries appear to be branching themselves off from Forensic Files.
Currently, HLN's Prime Time lineup includes:
- Primetime Justice
- Repurposed Filler reruns of programming that hasn't aired on Tru TV (the former Court TV) since their rebrand on Saturday nights such as Forensic Files, The Investigators and Body of Evidence. Your run-of-the-mill "recap of a crime show" with the usual medical examiners, cops, victims and suspects getting their piece in. Other programming such as Murder by the Book (True Crime writers talk about the cases they wrote books about) and repeats of the late Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice air here too. Since the 'social' rebrand, they now air on weeknights too. Everything listed here but Forensic Files moved to the digital broadcast channel The Justice Channel in January 2015, leaving Forensic Files to rule the roost.
- How It Really Happened, yet another "recap of a crime show", except focusing more on high-profile cases and notable celebrity deaths.
- CNN Special Report, a misleading title for CNN's assortment of generic news and crime documentaries that have built up since the Zucker era started and are now filling time during the afternoon HLN schedule.
Other programming includes:
- Morning Express, basic morning newscast with Robin Meade, another newscast which also beats CNN rather easily. More known for how Meade always wears a skirt and shows off her legs in multiple angles, her unexpected Country Music side career, and her support of the military.
- Michaela, a midday newscast hosted by Michaela Pereira from Los Angeles. Was originally pitched as being a morning show for the west coast, but it's been cut back a bit.
Former programming after the "Prime" era launch includes:
- Nancy Grace, a legal program starring the eponymous former Atlanta prosecutor. She is (in)famous for her confrontational style, her hatred of defense attorneys, telling local reporters who know a case inside and out they're wrong, and her zeal for seeing people get sent to jail, to the point where this very wiki once had a page dealing with parodies of her (until we deleted it for being nothing more than a Take That!). The show is so popular, it often outranked CNN's own programming in the timeslot, a point of embarrassment for HLN's mother network. Catch Phrases aplenty: "Bombshell Tonight!"; "Unleash the lawyers!"; "In the last hours..."; "That's putting perfume on the pig!"; "May they rot in hell!"; "Goodnight, friend," to name a few. It was cancelled in October 2016.
- Dr. Drew, another show featuring the constantly working celebridoctor dealing allegedly with hot topic news stories with his own psychological view of the stories, though more often than not it's usually a Product Placement slot for his newest television project or he deals with whatever HLN wants him to cover for the night. Has had multiple formats over the years to diminishing returns, and currently resembles a talk show right out of 1996.
- HLN Special Report, a show hosted by Vinnie Politan that aired news about whichever trial or missing/murdered woman story was in the news most; not really all that special a report.
- Evening Express, a Spin-Off of Morning Express which had basic consumer and female targeted news and True Crime stories, along with consumer advice from radio advocate Clark Howard.
- Now in America, Vinnie Politan's second mid-afternoon show which started as Making it in America, supposedly about re-finding The American Dream after the 2008 economic crisis, though with the Arias trial taking over HLN after it started, didn't really happen. With the title change, yet another legal analysis show until it was canceled. Eventually he had enough and decided to move on to the local Atlanta NBC affiliate where he'll anchor their morning news and since the station is a part of the expansive Gannett chain, likely provide legal analysis across the country for their stations.
- Jane Velez-Mitchell, a fast-paced hour of true crime stories and celebrity scandal. Formerly called Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell until the start of 2012. Had a cancellation in October 2014 as part of budget cuts around CNN, though as Jane didn't even get a goodbye show, felt on-par with a shock jock radio DJ being locked out of the studio and rushed out the door for even more Forensic Files repeats.
- Showbiz Tonight (as of 2013 initialized down to sbt), which promoted itself as "entertainment's most provocative newsmagazine", though 90% of the time it really wasn't. Pretty much what you would see if Jezebel, Radar Online or Us Weekly had their own TV show, "provocative" meant the usual "four people in boxes talk over each other for five minutes" style of debate, only about Lindsay Lohan instead of political topics. Before being rebooted here in 2008, when it was on CNN it was just about the most staid and straight-laced entertainment news program you could find on television. Some of the series's former anchors have moved onto EntertainmentTonight. The show was canceled without warning in February 2014 as part of the 'social' rebrand. It remains in Spanish-language form on CNN en Espanol in a saner straight entertainment news version.
- After Dark, a new program created especially to further describe the day in Jodi Arias trial coverage; made permanent in May 2013 as it began to easily beat the Anderson Cooper 360 repeat on CNN, which became a live trial analysis show itself when the Zimmerman trial began. Was under an alleged under a holiday/Olympics hiatus, but when host Ryan Smith moved onto ABC/ESPN, it never came back; neither did the AC copycat show.
- Prime News, a former straight news show title used by CNN and re-adapted to run down whatever awful and inane human interest stories CNN wants nowhere near their newscasts. Was known for 'viewer interactivity', but most of this involved the same people you find when you dare venture below the story end into a news website's comments section.
- Raising America, a program hosted by Kyra Phillips, mainly involving stories about parenting and consumer news, but again another show swallowed into the Arias coverage which never found its way back; when it was canceled CNN made it up to Phillips by putting her back on the main network.
- Glenn Beck, the first television home of the conservative talk show host. Started out comedic but quickly became the same in tone as his radio program. Eventually took his program to Fox News Channel in a Channel Hop, then to the Internet in 2011. Beck has since made overtures to Time Warner to purchase HLN's channel space for said Internet network, The Blaze, to increase its carriage.
- Clark Howard, a straight-laced weekend hour of the best calls that week from the Atlanta consumer advocate who budgets to the most Logical Extreme (he only has the most basic cable plan which means he can't even watch HLN at home, most of his wardrobe is provided courtesy of convention and radio station freebie polo shirts, and he openly calls for people to buy his books used on eBay instead of new or lend them out from their local library) and has one of the more popular radio shows lately. No glitz or glamour here, just a basic rebroadcast of a radio show on television (though a set with an obvious fake brick wall and skyline was built in the radio studio to make it look better). Howard eventually left the network in 2013 as his advice was buried by trial coverage.
- Joy Behar, a comedic talk show which had a variety and panel format hosted by the elder co-host of The View with her views. When she didn't want to go down the crime path the rest of the network was headed down, the network let her go at the end of 2011, and she moved onto Current TV until their switch to Al Jazzerra America.
- The Daytime Emmy Awards, which aired on HLN in 2012 and 2013 after years of decline on broadcast networks and loss of relevance with the decline of the Soap Opera. The 2013 version had many critics as it had a Robin Meade album release concert wedged in that did not please Soap Opera viewers, along with multiple technical and timing problems that pushed it out a half-hour beyond its expected running time. After refusing any of HLN's 'social' touches for their 2014 show, the Daytime Emmy organizing body decided to move to a webcast of the ceremony starting that year.
- Reruns of What Would You Do?, ABC's hidden camera 'will they do the right thing' show. Under the Albie Hecht era now airing weekday evenings also. As of August 2014, it's gone, replaced by more Forensic Files reruns.
- RightThisMinute, a show in broadcast syndication which is pretty much 'telegenic people collect YouTube viral videos and air them on TV so your technophobic parents don't have to search for them'; created by a consortium of station groups who didn't want to pay for a talk show that would probably flop after a season. Inexplicably picked up by HLN in February 2014. Likely because of both low ratings and said station groups complaining about cannibalization of ratings that prevented it from getting on new stations (plus Forensic Files reruns being free to air for HLN), it was removed in September 2014.
Former programs in the "going social" era included:
- News Now, like CNN's umbrella Newsroom show, pretty much the Morning Express format without the weather and business travel checks and other morning gimmicks.
- The Daily Share, the network's afternoon program where HLN's traditional stories now have a social focus with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine feedback being read or shown on-screen. Started out five hours long, but later reduced to two hours, and eventually none at all.
- Growing America, a reality show hosted by Ty Pennington which is a blatant Infomercial for Holiday Inn hidden within a generic 'inspirational reality' show where recent MBA graduates try to make a difference in the lives of people conveniently located in a town with a Holiday Inn in it. The newest Sisyphean attempt by the network to air a new show on Sunday nights, where so many more better choices for viewing exist.
- Jack Vale Offline The network's attempt at a candid reality show, this time with YouTube personality Jack Vale pranking people in Las Vegas, along with the usual family hijinks.
- CNN Student News, an abridged ten-minute newscast for children that airs at 4 in the morning, which is now the only time HLN (and lately it seems, all news channels in general) has no sensationalist news to speak of (or any talk about crimes or trials). Usually taped by teachers for showing the next morning in class and the last vestige of the cable industry's "Cable in the Classroom" initiative which encouraged installing cable television in schools (you're not going to see many schools airing Nancy Grace except for law schools that need mocking and "what not to do" material, for instance).