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WBD to stop offering live shows on CNN sister-network HLN

The logo of CNN Worldwide appears at the cable network's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia on January 26, 2013.
The logo of CNN Worldwide appears at the cable network’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia on January 26, 2013. (Photo by Hermann Luyken via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Warner Bros Discovery will stop offering live programming on CNN’s sister news network HLN, with the channel’s main news anchor Robin Meade leaving the company as part of a broader corporate restructuring that includes deep layoffs.

The shake-up comes as WBD seeks to cut costs across its entertainment portfolio following the merger of the legacy Discovery, Inc. portfolio with what was AT&T’s WarnerMedia earlier this year.

The restructuring includes deep layoffs across CNN, with several high-profile political commentators laid off this week, along with investigative producers at CNN bureaus across the country.

HLN was largely insulated from the cuts at CNN because the channel contains a limited amount of live programming. Meade anchored the network’s early morning show “Morning Express” before the daypart schedule transitioned into re-runs of “Forensic Files” and similar shows.

“I want to take a moment to thank Robin Meade,” CNN President Chris Licht wrote in a memo to employees on Thursday. “She is not only an exceptionally popular anchor, but also one of the longest-running morning hosts in history. I know the HLN audience will miss her and the other HLN talent.”

The decision to stop programming live content on HLN will effectively make it a general entertainment, reality-based channel, one of several offered on cable and satellite by WBD.

The channel launched in 1982 as CNN2, a companion to Ted Turner’s then-fledgling cable news channel, as a way to offer condensed headlines and other top stories in a short amount of time. It was re-branded to CNN Headline News shortly after it debuted.

In 2005, the network underwent its biggest reorganization when Time Warner decided to relaunch it as HLN. The network moved away from headlines in favor of topical, pop culture and entertainment news programming. Commentators like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck were hired to draw viewers into prime-time.

In 2013, the channel shifted its focus again toward programming that leaned heavily on content cultivated from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms. That format lasted less than two years before then-CNN President Jeff Zucker decided the network would incorporate more true crime documentaries and programming into its line-up.

Among cable news networks, HLN often places toward the bottom in the ratings. Over the last few years, it has faced significant competition from upstarts like Law & Crime and a revived version of Court TV, which are distributed on cable and streaming services and offer similar shows.

Starting next Tuesday, HLN will start simulcasting “CNN This Morning” in the time slot that occupied “Morning Express.” It was not clear how long CNN intends to simulcast the program across its two networks.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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