9:17am PT by Marisa Guthrie
HLN Cancels 'Showbiz Tonight'
HLN's Showbiz Tonight has been canceled after nearly nine years, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
Thursday, Feb. 6, will be the last broadcast for the show. But host A.J. Hammer will remain at HLN covering entertainment industry news. The show's staff will be laid off and encouraged to apply for open positions at the company. The news was first reported by TVNewser.
The cancellation comes as HLN president Albie Hecht, installed last year by CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, sets about remaking the network. Hecht has said his mission is to transform HLN from a destination for sensational trials into the "social media network." A veteran of Viacom's MTV and Spike TV, Hecht last December tapped a trio of executives with digital, rather than traditional television experience to reimagine the network as a destination for buzzy, breaking content.
Showbiz Tonight is not the first show Hecht has axed. He previously canceled daytime programs Evening Express, Now in America and Raising America. And in an interview last year with Capital New York, Zucker admitted that while the network's courtroom coverage generates high ratings — often propelling HLN past CNN — it is not a "strong business proposition" and not what "advertisers are looking for." That said, HLN late last year renewed Nancy Grace's contract through 2017. Grace, of course, is HLN's most high-profile and outspoken crime coverage personality.
In a memo to HLN staffers announcing the Showbiz Tonight cancellation, Hecht stressed that some changes during the net's "evolution" will be "difficult."
"This is one of the toughest," he wrote. Showbiz Tonight "became a signature entertainment show and served HLN well for many years."