HLN is a 24-hour news network that was spun off from CNN. The channel was established as CNN2 in 1982, partly in order to double-team ABC and Westinghouse's Satellite News Channel (which had a similar format) out of existence, and changed its name to CNN Headline News the following year, although use of the word "CNN" in the title was always fairly intermittent. Its original focus was a 30-minute newscast called the Headline News Wheel which filled viewers in on the day's most prominent stories, repeated on a 24-hour loop, thus allowing viewers to catch up on a day's worth of news in just half an hour, any time of the day (something that is very useful in places like airports and bars). There would be general news at the top and bottom of the hour taking up half the program, personal finance reports (known as "Dollars and Sense") at the 15 minute mark, sports at 20 minutes, the "Hollywood Minute" immediately after sports, and lifestyle reports in the last five minutes. This is the format that CNN Headline News enjoyed for over twenty years. In this form Headline News was also easily adaptable for radio, and stations that wanted a dependable "all-news" format would air the audio of the network, giving Headline News a second, though less obvious audience. It also syndicated its live feed to broadcast channels that wanted to air something other than a test pattern between 2:30 and 5-6:00 am.
After Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting (the channel's original owner), a few revamps were done; one in the late '90s when the 30-minute newscast was split into four for different dayparts, and another in 2001, which changed the logo, graphics and music, and introduced a "border" around the anchor which contained excessive amounts of information and took up most of the screen. This change earned the network much lampooning and criticism, being called a "jumbled mess" by USA Today. In 2005, the network responded to these criticisms by scaling back the amount of on-screen information. However, the change was likely justified as many viewers started getting basic news without elaboration from the Internet, and the network began to lose audience and purpose as they realized that only an older audience needed the data-packed half-hour format as time went on.
This forced a slow shift in direction for the network. It also started airing live programs in Prime Time (moving the rolling news coverage back to daytime) and putting a greater focus on celebrity news, violent crimes and missing white women. Network Decay was setting in at the network (which would be renamed HLN, after its EPG abbreviation, in 2008), but the shift was proving to be a success, earning the network higher Ratings than it ever did as well as reducing the amount of celebrity coverage on CNN. Time Warner also created an artificial format change in 2009, as HLN's sister network Court TV was rebranded to Tru TV with a reality format, and most of their trial coverage bumped over to HLN.
With the retirement of the final old-line Headline News anchor, Chuck Roberts in 2010, the final strings from the old format were broken, and now the rolling news block features most of the elements of the evening portion of the schedule. The Casey Anthony trial took over the entire network over the spring and summer of 2011, taking Adored by the Network to its most absurd extreme.
Currently, HLN's Prime Time (which is defined as starting at 5pm ET by them) lineup includes:
- HLN Special Report, a show hosted by Vinnie Politan that airs news about whichever trial or missing/murdered woman story is in the news most; not really all that special a report.
- Prime News, a former straight news show title used by CNN and re-adapted to run down whatever awful and inane human interest stories CNN wants nowhere near their newscasts. Known for 'viewer interactivity', but most of this involves the same people you find when you dare venture below the story end into a news website's comments section.
- Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, a fast-paced hour of true crime stories, celebrity scandal and stuff that's usually in the "wacky file" of most other news shows.
- Nancy Grace, a legal program starring the eponymous former Atlanta prosecutor. She is (in)famous for her confrontational style, her hatred of defense attorneys, and her zeal for seeing people get sent to jail, to the point where this very wiki once had a page dealing with parodies of her (until we deleted it for being nothing more than a Take That). The show is so popular, it often outranks CNN's own programming in the timeslot, a point of embarrassment for HLN's mother network.
- Dr. Drew, another show featuring the constantly working celebridoctor dealing allegedly with hot topic news stories with his own psychological view of the stories, though more often than not it's usually a Product Placement slot for his newest television project or he deals with whatever HLN wants him to cover for the night.
- Showbiz Tonight, which promotes itself as "entertainment's most provocative newsmagazine", though 90% of the time it really isn't. Pretty much what you would see if Jezebel, Radar Online or Us Weekly had their own TV show, "provocative" meaning the usual "four people in boxes talk over each other for five minutes" style of debate, only about Lindsay Lohan instead of political topics. Before being rebooted here in 2008, when it was on CNN it was just about the most staid and straight-laced entertainment news program you could find on television.
- Repurposed Filler reruns of programming that hasn't aired on Tru TV (the former Court TV) since their rebrand on Saturday nights such as The Investigators and Body of Evidence. Your run-of-the-mill "recap of a crime show" with the usual medical examiners, cops, victims and suspects getting their piece in.
Other programming includes:
- Morning Express, basic morning newscast with Robin Meade, another newscast which also beats CNN rather easily. More known for how Meade always wears a skirt and shows off her legs in multiple angles, and her support of the military.
- CNN Student News, an abridged ten-minute newscast for children that airs at 4 in the morning, which is now the only time HLN has no sensationalist news to speak of. Usually taped by teachers for showing the next morning in class and the last vestige of the cable industry's "Cable in the Classroom" initiative which encouraged installing cable television in schools (you're not going to see many schools airing Nancy Grace except for law schools that need mocking and "what not to do" material, for instance).
- Clark Howard, a straight-laced weekend hour of the best calls that week from the Atlanta consumer advocate who budgets to the most Logical Extreme (he only has the most basic cable plan which means he can't even watch HLN at home, most of his wardrobe is provided courtesy of convention and radio station freebie polo shirts, and he openly calls for people to buy his books used on eBay instead of new) and has one of the more popular radio shows lately. No glitz or glamour here, just a basic rebroadcast of a radio show on television (though a set with an obvious fake brick wall and skyline was built in the radio studio to make it look better).
HLN is also notable for having been the home of Glenn Beck before his move to the Fox News Channel. Joy Behar of The View also had her own show from 2009 until the end of 2011, which was a comedic panel take on the day's news with Behar's views within the show. When she didn't want to go down the crime path the rest of the network was headed down, the network let her go, along with one of the few non-confrontational variety-talk shows left on the air.