The channel originally launched as CNN2 on January 1, 1982. In January of the following year, it was renamed Headline News. From around that point until 1992, the channel was often abbreviated as "HN" (the channel would later incorporate a die-cut "HN" block design within the original variant of its third logo when it was introduced in 1989, before it was fully supplanted by the wordmark that accompanied it in 1992, which was later italicized).
Originally, the channel's programming was formatted around the idea that a viewer could tune in at any time of day or night (instead of having to wait for the merely once- or twice-daily national news segments in local newscasts, or morning or evening network news programs), and receive up-to-date information on the top national and international stories in just 30 minutes. This "Headline News Wheel" format featured: general news during the top (:00) and bottom (:30) of the hour; "Dollars and Sense" business and personal finance reports at 15 and 45 minutes past each hour; sports scores and headlines (branded as "Headline Sports") at 20 and 50 minutes past the hour; and lifestyle reports at 25 and 55 minutes past the hour. The :25/:55 lifestyle segment was designed to allow local cable systems the option of pre-empting it with a local headline "capsule" from an associated regional cable news channel or a local television station. Another regular feature, the "Hollywood Minute", was often fitted-in after the "Headline Sports" segment. In the channel's early years, a two-minute recap of the hour's top stories, the "CNN Headlines," would run after the sports segment.
Its longest-serving news anchor was Chuck Roberts, who retired on July 30, 2010, after a 28-year career with the network. During its first year, Headline News had a competitor in the form of ABC/Group W's Satellite News Channel, which operated from June 21, 1982 to October 27, 1983. SNC's satellite slot was then purchased by Ted Turner to expand Headline News' reach further into additional homes.
Jon Petrovich was hired in the mid-1980s by Turner to lead Headline News. In 1990, Headline News developed Local Edition, a six-minute-long local newscast, whose content was produced by a local broadcast station in the participating market, airing at the end of each half-hour of Headline News' rolling news block. The channel included the "CNN" branding in its name intermittently for most of its history, before being incorporated on a regular basis from 1997 to 2007 (though an alternate logo without the CNN logo was used for news broadcasts through 2001).
In 1989, Headline News introduced a ticker that appeared at the lower one-third of the screen – except during commercial breaks, which initially showed stock market data with indexes of the major stock exchanges (including the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ and the S&P 500) and quotes for major companies during trading hours, which were updated on a 15-minute delay. In 1992, the channel added the "Headline News SportsTicker", which showed sports scores and schedules for the day's upcoming games, creating the first continuous news ticker on television. The redesign resulted in video of the rolling newscasts becoming pillarboxed with blue bars on the left and right wings of the screen (matching the ticker's original coloring), before it returned to a full-screen format, with the ticker becoming a translucent black background overlaid on the lower third of the video, as part of a 1994 update to the channel's graphics package that also added weather forecasts for select major U.S. cities to the ticker; the ticker itself would add the Headline News logo, and as such, would no longer be seen alongside the copyright date in the closing.
On January 8, 1992, Headline News almost became the victim of a hoax. When President George H. W. Bush fainted at a state dinner in Tokyo, Japan, a person claiming to be the president's physician called into the channel's Atlanta headquarters and claimed that Bush had died. At 9:45 a.m., anchor Don Harrison prepared to break the story, stating "This just in to CNN Headline News, and we say right off the bat, we have not confirmed this through any other sources..." Executive producer Roger Bahre, who was off-camera, immediately yelled "No! Stop!" After glancing away momentarily, Harrison continued, "We are now getting a correction. We will not give you that story. It was regarding some rather tragic news involving President Bush, but updating that story, President Bush is reported to be resting comfortably." It turned out that an Idaho man, James Edward Smith, called CNN posing as the president's physician. A CNN employee entered the information into a centralized computer used by both CNN and Headline News, and it nearly got out on the air before it could be verified. Smith was subsequently questioned by the Secret Service and hospitalized at a private medical facility for evaluation.
In 1992, Headline News pioneered the use of a digital video "jukebox" to recycle segments of one newscast seamlessly into another. The new technology reduced the number of staffers needed by enabling news segments to be re-used throughout an entire day (previously, anchors read the same stories repeatedly, hour after hour, with the second 15 minutes of each half-hour in the "wheel" being broadcast on videotape every third and fourth hour). This resulted in the layoffs of part of its staff, including such stalwart anchors as Lyn Vaughn, David Goodnow and Bob Losure, all of whom had been with Headline News for over 10 years.
The channel became noted for its distinct "screen" that was introduced in August 2001 as part of an extensive imaging overhaul of CNN Headline News (which included the introduction of a new simplified wordmark logo that incorporated the "CNN" brand full-time), in which the news anchor (or news footage) appears in a sort of visual "window" surrounded by constantly changing text, such as breaking news, sports scores, stock market reports and weather updates. Due to the growing competition from Fox News Channel and MSNBC, in 2003 Time Warner revamped CNN Headline News with a more flexible format, featuring live reports and utilizing two anchors to co-host the channel's rolling news coverage.
In 2005, the channel substantially reduced the amount of on-screen information, following much scrutiny and lampooning of their format (including USA Today calling their screen a "jumbled mess"). The new look would consist of a yellow bar which added sports scores and stock quotes to the basic "ticker" of news headlines. The channel also began a shift away from its rolling news coverage throughout primetime, with the introduction of longer, personality-based programs (under the umbrella title "Headline Prime") that February.
The channel's new programs included Showbiz Tonight, a daily entertainment news show hosted by A. J. Hammer (which ran until November 2013); an eponymous legal news and discussion program hosted by Nancy Grace; and a general national news program titled Prime News Tonight, hosted by Mike Galanos. This move had the unintended consequence of eliminating the main difference between CNN Headline News and CNN (during primetime), since CNN had always broadcast a variety of news-related programs (such as documentaries and personality-based shows like Larry King Live).
Additional programming changes took place with the introduction of News To Me, a program featuring only user-generated content, in May of that year, a daily broadcast of the previous evening's Larry King Live in June, and a shift towards the channel's rolling news coverage being handled by a single anchor, deviating from the channel's traditional dual anchor format that had been in use since 2003 while in turn restoring the original anchor format that Headline News had used prior to then. The Larry King Live rebroadcast was later replaced by an encore of the previous evening's edition of Showbiz Tonight (that in turn was dropped for an extension of Morning Express).
On December 15, 2008, in conjunction with CNN's own graphics changes, which resembled the graphics of its sister channel CNN International, Headline News replaced its news ticker with a "flipper", which featured an RSS feed of the current headlines on its parent network's website, CNN.com. The same day, a new square logo with a triangular appendage (making it resemble a speech bubble) overlaid by an "HLN" acronym was introduced, initially alongside the channel's full name. Two days later, the "Headline News" name was removed from on-air use with the HLN acronym becoming the channel's name full-time, and a new slogan, "News and Views", was introduced (the "Headline News" name remains in use for on-screen copyright notices).
On March 28, 2011, HLN switched its primary standard definition feed from full-screen to a letterboxed 4:3 format, which is a downconversion from the 16:9 high definition feed; however, video footage broadcast in standard definition on either feed is not pillarboxed (as such with parent channel CNN, since its SD feed switched from full-screen to letterbox in January 2011), leaving black bars on the right and left sides of the screen, in addition to on the top and bottom of the screen. However HLN Saturday Night Mysteries, which features repurposed versions of sister channel TruTV's crime story programming, is broadcast in 4:3 full-screen on the HLN SD feed.
During the spring of 2011, HLN devoted a significant amount of its broadcast day to the Casey Anthony murder trial, dedicating multiple daily and primetime slots to live coverage of the proceedings followed by commentary during the evening. The saturated coverage of the trial led to increased ratings for the network, including a doubling in regular viewership during daytime hours and nearly triple that in primetime. HLN executive vice president Scot Safon called the trial "a gigantic deal" for the network. HLN also devoted a significant amount of time to the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray (who was accused of prescribing the drugs that caused the death of Michael Jackson) during the fall of 2011.
On July 18, 2011, CNN began offering live streams of HLN for mobile devices to subscribers of certain pay television services. On November 4, 2011, HLN launched its own website at hlntv.com. By contrast to CNN.com, the site is run by HLN's own editorial staff, emphasizing "must see and must share" stories, and content tying into its television programs.
In May 2012, HLN acquired the rights to broadcast the Daytime Emmy Awards, beginning with the 39th annual event on June 23, 2012; this marked the first time that the awards ceremony was aired on cable, instead of broadcast television. With 912,000 viewers (not counting four repeat broadcasts, which brought the total to two million), the broadcast was "the most watched regularly scheduled, non-news telecast" ever on HLN.
2013–2015: Going social
Albie Hecht joined HLN as Executive Vice President and GM in September 2013. In November 2013, consumer advocate Clark Howard ended his five-year relationship with HLN, including his appearances on Morning Express with Robin Meade and Evening Express as well as his own eponymous weekend afternoon program. The move came in response to planned changes occurring at HLN, which sought to re-position the network as the "first TV home for the social media generation."
Throughout 2014, HLN's news content began to skew towards millennials, with an increasing focus on content popular on social networks alongside major headlines. For a period, HLN also aired RightThisMinute, a syndicated program focusing on viral videos. In June 2014, Time Warner attempted to, but failed to, acquire a stake in Vice Media: Time Warner had planned to give Vice control of HLN so it could re-launch the network with its own original content.
These plans culminated on January 13, 2015, when HLN underwent a major revamp in its programming and on-air presentation; the network introduced several new social media-themed programs, including the new afternoon block The Daily Share, Jack Vale: Offline – a docusoap following YouTube comedian Jack Vale, Ali Nejad's The Social Life, and Keywords, a social media-themed game show hosted by Summer Sanders. HLN also adopted an updated logo, and introduced a new set at Studio 7 of the CNN Center, used by Morning Express and The Daily Share. The new studio has a "coffee house"-styled design with no traditional anchor desk, and a "Social Circle" designed to encourage interaction between hosts and guests. T-Mobile US also signed on to serve as a sponsor for The Daily Share, allowing on-set branding and sponsored segments during the program.
In late-May 2015, The Daily Share was cut from five hours to two, with the remainder of its timeslot replaced by a block consisting of CNN original programs/specials, followed by next-day encores of Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew On Call).
On November 24, 2015, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker announced in a memo to network staff that Hecht would depart HLN; Ken Jautz, who oversaw the network as its president prior to Hecht's appointment in 2013, would head the network in the interim. The memo outlined plans to restructure its daytime and overnight programming to more closely resemble CNN, including possibly adding of its parent network's library of documentary films.
In June 2016, HLN announced that Erica Hill would re-join the network to host a new, afternoon program from New York later in the year. Later that month, HLN also announced that Michaela Pereira, a former anchor of CNN's New Day, would host a new morning show from CNN's Los Angeles bureau, known as MichaeLA, beginning on July 11, 2016. The new program was positioned as a sister to HLN's main morning show Morning Express, airing from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET; the network emphasized in promotion that Michaela would be the only nationally televised morning show to be broadcast live in the west coast (where it airs from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PT), contrasting other national morning shows that are tape-delayed from airings for the east coast.
On June 30, 2016, Nancy Grace announced that she would end her show and leave HLN in October 2016, after nearly a decade with the network. It was replaced by a new program, Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield. Erica Hill's new program, On the Story, premiered on October 10, 2016.
In January 2017, HLN announced the January 27 premiere of How it Really Happened, a new documentary series hosted by Hill Harper that will "delve deeply into some of the most notorious crimes, mysteries, trials, and celebrity tragedies of our time". The series is the first production of CNN's Original Series Development staff that was developed specifically for HLN. On January 30, 2017, it was announced that CNN anchor Carol Costello would return to HLN to host a new program from Los Angeles.
Due to the channel's tradition of airing rolling news coverage, HLN had become popular with people who may not have time to watch lengthy news reports, in addition to places where a high demand for "get to the point" news exists, such as airports, bars, and many other places. Supermarkets that carried the discontinued CNN Checkout Channel service was offered a feed of Headline News to broadcast on its televisions.
Since its inception, Headline News has been syndicated to broadcast television stations (especially affiliates of major broadcast networks) throughout the United States, with its programming mainly airing in overnight time periods as stations began to transition from signing off at night to carrying a full 24-hour program schedule. Until 1995, much of Headline News' programming was simulcast on sister channel CNN International; the channel's news ticker was not displayed on CNN International during its simulcasts of Headline News programming.
The channel's program audio was also simulcast on AM radio stations across the country via Westwood One; all of CNN's U.S. radio operations (including the HLN simulcast) were discontinued on April 1, 2012 as part of Westwood One's dissolution into Dial Global. The audio feed is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 123 and Sirius Satellite Radio channel 116.
Beginning in the mid-2000s, the channel has been available in certain countries outside the United States, particularly in Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa.
While the international feed's program lineup is exactly the same as that seen in the U.S., weather forecasts for Asian and Latin American, Middle East and North African Cities in the cities are used as break fillers in lieu of commercials.
HLN broadcasts in high definition 1080i resolution format. It is available nationally on nearly all cable and satellite providers within the United States, and in Canada on satellite provider Bell TV, which downconverts the HD feed's picture resolution to 720p.
HLN's weekday lineup consists primarily of rolling news programming during the daytime hours, consisting of Morning Express, a morning news program hosted by Robin Meade, joined by Bob Van Dillen, Jennifer Westhoven and Coy Wire, followed by MichaeLA, a second morning show broadcast from Los Angeles and hosted by Michaela Pereira. The network's afternoon lineup features On the Story, a news program hosted by Erica Hill. During the evenings, HLN broadcasts Primetime Justice, a news program hosted by Ashleigh Banfield which focuses on legal and social issues.
HLN's remaining dayparts primarily feature reruns of the former CourtTV series Forensic Files. As of April 2016, the program took up about 58% of the channel's weekly schedule. On January 27, 2017, to coincide with the premiere of the new original series How it Really Happened, HLN introduces a new Friday-night block known as HLN Spotlight, which will feature encores of past CNN specials, as well as new original series.
On February 12, 2015, HLN aired the film Glory as part of a new anthology known as News and a Movie—which consisted of airings of feature films accompanied by panel discussions on their cultural relevance in the present day. Alongside TruTV, HLN also aired encores of special episodes of TBS's late night talk show Conan set in Cuba and Armenia. Beginning with its third-season premiere in 2016, HLN simulcast the premieres of new episodes for CNN's investigative show The Hunt with John Walsh, with an encore of the previous week's leading up to the new episode.
At 4:00 a.m. ET on weekdays, HLN used to broadcast CNN Student News, a 10-minute news program designed for broadcast in schools that is produced as part of the Cable in the Classroom initiative; the program is anchored by Carl Azuz, with reports on the day's news presented in a simplified format (and with stories featuring graphic imagery or adult themes usually left out from the program). It no longer airs on HLN as of 2014, but is still available as a free podcast on CNN's website and iTunes. On December 16, 2016, the program was renamed to CNN 10.Notes
- (HLN) – Indicates anchor/reporter who appears exclusively on HLN
- (HLN & CNN) – Indicates anchor/reporter who appears on both HLN and CNN