Hecht’s plan to shake up HLN takes shape with layoffs and daytime programming shift

Anchor Kyra Phillips. ()
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Alex Weprin

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HLN is shaking up its dayside lineup and laying off staff, as its new general manager Albie Hecht begins to make changes to the CNN sister channel.

An unspecified number of staffers for the channel in New York and its Atlanta headquarters are affected by the moves.

“These changes serve as a principal step as we continue to re-position the brand,” Hecht wrote in an email to HLN staff obtained by Capital New York.

Among the changes: “Raising America,” “Now in America” and “Evening Express” are being canceled, and will be replaced by “News Now” from 1-5 p.m. and a live edition of “Showbiz Tonight” at 6 p.m. Talent on those programs, including high-profile former CNN anchor Kyra Phillips, will remain with the channel in other roles still to be determined.

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Hecht took over HLN in September, and his arrival suggested sweeping changes would soon be coming to the channel.

News of the layoffs was first reported by Andrew Kirell at Mediaite.

The changes made today are being described by one executive familiar with the situation as “phase one” of HLN’s changes.

CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker is said to have recruited Hecht to revitalize CNN's sibling channel, part of an effort to make it less reliant on ratings bursts delivered by the courtroom-centric programming it has become known for in recent years. For now, courtroom programs remain a key part of its lineup, particularly in primetime.

Hecht’s email to HLN staff outlining the changes is below:

Team: Today, I'm announcing programming changes to HLN's dayside line-up. Effective November 18, these changes serve as a principal step as we continue to re-position the brand.

HLN's new 6 a.m.-12 midnight schedule is as follows:

6 a.m.-12 noon ET: Morning Express with Robin Meade

12 noon-1 p.m. ET: Showbiz Tonight (repeat from previous day)

1-5 p.m. ET: News Now

5-6 p.m. ET: What Would You Do?

6-7 p.m. ET: Showbiz Tonight (LIVE, 5th floor NY newsroom)

7-8 p.m. ET: Jane Velez-Mitchell

8-9 p.m. ET: Nancy Grace

9-10 p.m. ET: Dr. Drew On Call (M-Th, Mystery Detectives Fri)

10-11 p.m. ET: HLN After Dark (M-Th, Mystery Detectives Fri)

11 p.m.-12 midnight: Showbiz Tonight (6 p.m. replay)

The programming shift also includes new assignments for some of our talent. News Now will be anchored by a rotation of Mike Galanos, Susan Hendricks, Christi Paul and Lynn Berry. In the coming weeks, we'll have additional announcements about other talent impacted by these changes.

While change is necessary to evolve HLN, it is also difficult. A handful of our family members will be impacted by today's news. I know that I speak for all of us when I offer a heartfelt thank you and my sincere appreciation for their commitment. In the six weeks since I've joined HLN, I've been continually impressed with your professionalism and passion. We have a real opportunity to grow the HLN brand; let's get started.

Albie