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Albie Hecht Named General Manager of HLN

Spike TV founder Albie Hecht has been named executive vice president and general manager of HLN, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker announced today. His appointment is effective September 30.

Hecht’s appointment comes on the heels on an executive reorganization at HLN and CNN. Scott Safon, the former HLN chief, departed the network at the end of August, and CNN/U.S. EVP Ken Jautz has been managing HLN in the interim.

“Three key factors made the decision to join HLN easy: the opportunity to further evolve a noted brand, reinvent news in a digital age and work for Jeff, an industry giant,” Hecht said in a statement. “Creating engaging and buzzed about content across multiple platforms is in my DNA, and I am excited to make magic with the talented team at HLN.”

Hecht is a former president of Nickelodeon Entertainment. He is currently the CEO of Worldwide Biggies, a digital entertainment studio based in New York.

More from HLN after the jump. Read more

HLN’s Nancy Grace Takes Hashtags To The Extreme

HLN has been having a slow Summer since the George Zimmerman and Jodi Arias trials have ended. For Nancy Grace, the prosecutor-in-chief at the cable channel, there always has to be something to be outraged about. Given the current media landscape, there is also an interest in driving social chatter around the show.

Social viewers tend to be loyal viewers, after all. Grace may be taking that concept a bit too far however.

Last night, during a story about a newborn who was found in a pile of trash, Grace included the hashtag #BabyInTrash on screen:

A day earlier (as noted by Ad Age), Grace included the hashtag #ToiletBaby next to a story about a mother who gave birth to her child in a toilet, and proceeded to kill it:
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Morgan Freeman, as HLN Anchor, Explains Twerking

For a while, he was the voice of the “CBS Evening News,” now Morgan Freeman is trying his hand in front of the camera, as a news anchor. The actor was on HLN’s “Morning Express” this morning and Robin Meade got him to play anchor. The story he read, was an explainer on Twerking. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this all might be a sign of the apocalypse.

August 2013 Ratings: Without Major Trial Coverage, HLN Fourth in Total Day, Primetime

With no major trial coverage this month, HLN was back in fourth place among the cable news networks in both total day and primetime. Compared to August 2012, HLN is up +2% in total viewers and down -9% in the A25-54 demographic in total day and down -1% and up +1%, respectively, in primetime.

The ratings for August 2013 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 308,000 Total Viewers / 112,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 243,000 Total Viewers / 91,000 A25-54

Despite losses for “Morning Express” — down -12% in total viewers and -22% in the A25-54 demographic year-over-year — HLN’s afternoon and early evening programming was strong, with every hour between 12pm and 6pmET up in both total viewers and the demo.

It was more of a mixed bag for HLN in primetime, however. At 8pmET, “Nancy Grace” was flat, down -1% in total viewers and up +1% in the A25-54 demographic. The 9pmET hour, home to “Dr. Drew,” was up +18% in total viewers and +6% in the demo, and “After Dark” at 10pmET was down -1% and up +5%, respectively.

HLN Finds Itself At Another Crossroads, As It Slates Primetime Health/Wellness Block

Later this year, HLN will start airing a two-hour health and wellness block on Sunday nights from 7-9 PM. The block will be based on the “Upwave” brand developed by parent company Turner Broadcasting, according to Variety. The formats and hosts are still to be determined, but the Upwave videos currently have a heavy focus on fitness and healthy eating (you can watch a sizzle reel here).

For HLN, it is another fork in the road as the channel has struggled to break apart from its bigger sibling and develop its own identity.

HLN is currently best known for its courtroom programming like “Nancy Grace,” but also features entertainment news programming like “Showbiz Tonight.” During the day (and when there isn’t a big trial), HLN’s programs seem geared to stay-at home moms, with a heavy emphasis on family-centric news programming. During the weekend it features long-form crime and mystery programming.

Now there may be cooking shows and fitness programs in primetime.

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Scot Safon: Experience At CNN and HLN Has Been ‘Very rewarding…and very complete’

This morning CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker revealed that HLN chief Scot Safon would be departing the company at the end of August, after 22 years at Turner Broadcasting. Shortly thereafter Safon sent a memo to staff explaining the decision to move on.

“This week marks my 22nd anniversary at the company, and I look back at an experience that feels both very rewarding…and very complete,” Safon wrote in the memo, which was obtained by TVNewser. “I will miss working daily with all of you.  The energy that pulses through CNN Worldwide is unique, and the rhythms of a CNN or HLN day are unlike what you will find anywhere else.   Most of all, the people you get to work with each day are, quite simply, wonderful. ”

He also talked about his time as the chief marketing officer at CNN, and as GM of HLN. Read the memo after the jump.
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Scot Safon Out At HLN, Andrew Morse Joins CNN In Leadership Rejiggering

CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker is reorganizing his executive team in a big way.

For starters, after 22 years at the company HLN chief Scot Safon will be departing at the end of August. Current CNN/U.S. chief and former HLN executive VP Ken Jautz will manage HLN in the interim.

“Recently, Scot approached me with the desire to take a well-deserved break, and to move on to the next phase of his career,” Zucker wrote in a memo to staff this morning. “I have enjoyed working with Scot, and I am truly sorry to see him go. But I do understand the desire to do something new.”

The CNN Worldwide chief also confirmed the addition of Bloomberg TV’s Andrew Morse, who will become senior VP of domestic newsgathering and digital editorial, reporting to Zucker. Meredith Artley, Sam Feist and Terence Burke will all now report to Morse.

Michael Bass will oversee New York and Atlanta programming, while talent and acquisitions chief Amy Entelis will now report directly to Zucker. Ken Jautz will oversee operations and finance at CNN/U.S. while managing HLN in Safon’s absence.

Tony Maddox will be giving up some of his domestic newsgathering responsibilities to focus exclusively on international coverage.

Zucker’s full memo, below.
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HLN Producer Poses as Predator, Uses Oldest Trick in the Book to Lure Kids to His Van

HLN’s Kyra Phillips has a special hour of her show “Raising America” today. Despite years of public awareness campaigns, “Predator Test” takes a look at just how easy it is for strangers to lure unsuspecting children into dangerous situations. Phillips’ producer poses as a predator and at one point lures a child into a dog crate in a van. The child’s mother, standing in the distance, was understandably shocked.

Ben Bamsey, the producer of the project tells TVNewser this is just the start of an ongoing series of specials aimed at keeping kids safe. Next week producers will head into the field to begin production on a special called “Taken.” “It’s about the crucial first 24 hours after a child goes missing,” says Bamsey. “We’ll be putting up missing posters of a child in a park, while that child is in the park, just to see if anyone notices.”

As Phillips told me in a MediaBeat interview recently, she hoped her new HLN show would shed light on under-covered issues affecting families.  Here’s a preview of today’s special. The full hour airs at NoonET today.

July 2013 Ratings: Zimmerman Trial Propels HLN

When there is a big trial, HLN thrives, and that was true in July as the channel covered the George Zimmerman trial. HLN ratings skyrocketed year to year, with the channel up triple digits in some dayside hours.

The ratings for July 2013 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 489,000 Total Viewers / 196,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 386,000 Total Viewers / 159,000 A25-54

Compared to July 2012, HLN was up +54% in primetime among total viewers and +70 % in the A25-54 demo. In total day HLN was up +58% in total viewers and +57% in the demo. HLN topped MSNBC in both categories in total day, but placed fourth behind MSNBC in primetime.

HLN’s biggest growth came during the day when it had courtroom coverage. From 2-3PM it was up +173% in total viewers and +218% in the demo, and at 5-6PM it was up +210% in total viewers and +202% in the demo. Other dayside hours saw similar triple-digit growth.

In primetime, every show was up double digits compared to 2012, with “Dr Drew” at 9 PM showing the most growth by gaining +76% in total viewers and +104% in the demo. “Nancy Grace” was up +34% in total viewers and +65% in the demo, while “HLN After Dark” was up +63% in total viewers and +89% in the demo.

The HLN show with the least growth was “Morning Express,” which was only up +15% in the demo and +30% in total viewers.

Of course, July 2012 was not a great month for HLN, so the growth is not that surprising. Since the Casey Anthony trial the channel has done well when there is a trial to cover, and has struggled when the trial ends.

HLN’s July ratings release:

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Q2 2013 Ratings: Trial Coverage Boosts HLN

HLN topped MSNBC in Total Day for the first time since 2005 in the second quarter of 2013. With its coverage of the Jodi Arias and George Zimmerman trials, the network has surged double digits across the board compared to the same quarter last year.

The ratings for Q2 2013 (Nielsen Live + Same Day data):

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 518,000 Total Viewers / 178,000 A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 390,000 Total Viewers / 141,000 A25-54

Compared to the second quarter of 2012, HLN was up +61% in Total Viewers and +48% in the A25-54 demographic in Total Day and +49% and +51%, respectively, in primetime. It should be noted that HLN struggled during the second quarter of 2012.

HLN’s daytime programming (9am-5pm) is up +165% in Total Viewers and +109% in A25-54 viewers compared to the year-ago quarter. In primetime, Nancy Grace‘s program is up +50% in Total Viewers and +46% in the demo, while Dr. Drew Pinsky‘s program is up +112% in both ratings measurements. The 10 p.m. hour, which has been home to “After Dark” this quarter, is up +70% and +76%, respectively.

More from HLN after the jump. Read more