HLN May Add Satire to Attract Social Media Generation

Wednesday, 19 Feb 2014 01:25 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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HLN — the breezy cable spinoff of CNN — may start serving some satire with its serious news.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Albie Hecht, HLN executive vice president, says he watches Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

"Tonally, that's an arena we want to move into as an editorial voice, but probably not quite as snarky," Hecht tells the Reporter.

He also admires Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, whom he calls "a provocative interviewer, although he can be annoying and upsetting. But he's a great entertainer."

HLN is now a mix of news, crime shows, legal analysis, documentaries, and feature shows with such hosts as Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew Pinsky.

The Reporter says Hecht, a former Viacom Inc. executive who helped in the successes of MTV and Nickelodeon, wants to transform HLN — formerly known as Headline News — into a destination for the "social media generation."

"We need to reinvent how we show the social media conversation," he told the publication.

"There is a lot of social media, but not on TV. There's a lot online, there's a lot on mobile, and there's nothing on television. So for me, the opportunity is to name it, claim it, be first, and to give it a home on television."

He says his target age is 35-38 — "people immersed in social media but also avid television watchers. They may not watch TV news, per se, but they watch a lot of TV and we want to tap into their interests."

"MSNBC is on the left, Fox News is on the right, and they're talking about politics. CNN is the truth in the middle. We're the naked truth. We're the social media truth."

Hecht insists HLN is not abandoning news. "We will be a news channel. We'll just be a different definition of news," he told the Reporter.

According to the journalism website Media Bistro, January was a "mixed bag" for HLN in ratings.

"While the network remained fourth in total viewers, there are signs of life among younger viewers: HLN came in third among the cable news networks in the A25-54 demographic in total day, edging out CNN by just 3,000 viewers," Media Bistro said. "Additionally, the network has grown its audience in the demo in both total day and prime time compared to January 2013."

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