HLN Chief to Depart in Programming Shake-Up

Jesse Dittmar

Albie Hecht, who led a transformation of HLN to differentiate the CNN sister network from Turner's flagship news channel, will leave the network. Ken Jautz, who oversaw HLN prior to Hecht's arrival, will take charge on an interim basis. 

The announcement was made Tuesday morning in a memo to staff by CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker. Zucker noted that HLN has made progress since Hecht, a former MTV executive, arrived in 2013. Zucker specifically pointed to The Daily Share, a daytime program that curates stories and topics trending on social media. But top performers on HLN remain legacy programs including those hosted by Robin Meade, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Nancy Grace. So the network's daytime and overnight programming strategy will now shift back to become more closely aligned with CNN. Going forward, HLN will air some of the library of content — including documentaries and reality series — amassed at CNN under Zucker.

Hecht arrived at HLN in 2013 with a mandate to shift the network's focus away from sensational trial coverage in an effort to attract young, digitally native consumers who have not traditionally gravitated to the TV news genre.

"They may not watch TV news, per se, but they watch a lot of TV and we want to tap into their interests," Hecht told THR last year. "And I think the important part of winning this audience over is by putting the process of social media on TV, not behind the curtain."

More recently HLN was at the center of an effort to bring Shane Smith's Vice Media into the Time Warner fold when Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes held talks with Smith about handing over HLN to Vice to program. Those talks broke down over who would have creative control and Smith has since forged a deal with A+E Television Networks, which in February will re-brand its H2 channel as Viceland.

"I am extremely proud of the transformation we have accomplished, and I want to thank all of the talented people I’ve had the privilege of working with at HLN and especially thank Jeff and [Turner chairman and CEO] John Martin for all of their support," said Hecht in a statement.

Zucker's email is below.

I want to share some news about HLN.

We continue to see great progress — and many of you have heard me talk about it recently. HLN is the second-fastest growing network in all of cable, and this year had its highest share of the cable news market in its history.
Morning Express has surged to the number two spot in cable morning news. The Daily Share, the social lifestyle video network that launched less than a year ago, is number one in engagement among cable news and its competitive set. And the prime time lineup features some of the biggest personalities in cable, and they are integral to HLN’s success story.

As we look towards 2016, I now believe that by driving HLN’s programming during the daytime and overnight hours closer to CNN’s, and by utilizing a much stronger library of content that has been built in the last three years, we can take that success to even greater heights.

In light of that, Albie Hecht has decided it makes sense for him to move on. With the support of an incredible team at the network, he has done a terrific job running HLN. And it hasn’t been easy. His vision, creativity, persistence and commitment have been unwavering and he has been instrumental to HLN’s progress.

HLN is in good hands. Ken Jautz, who knows HLN as well as almost anyone at CNN, will step in on an interim basis to make sure we don’t miss a beat. And there is an exceptionally talented group of people who remain at the helm and throughout the organization that I know will continue to keep HLN strong.

I want to thank Albie for being a terrific partner to me, and the team at HLN. What we have accomplished would not have been possible without him and he will be missed.