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HLN Surfs the Web for Younger Viewers

HLN is turning to the Web to draw younger viewers to its news-and-entertainment-based brand by developing short-form, online series.

Nearly two years after the former Headline News channel rebranded itself from a breaking news outlet to one focused on news generated from social media sites, the network has launched two online series, with plans to develop several more, head of digital product strategy and partnerships Lila King said. It’s an attempt to engage young viewers where they are accessing content, she said.

The network’s first online series, Fluff — a 12-episode series that features YouTube star Andrew Grantham putting a voice to everyday pets discussing everything from politics to food — has already generated 7 million views since launching Nov. 2 on the network’s digital sites on YouTube and Facebook, according to King.

A second, six-episode series, Cooking With Nancy Grace, launched Nov. 9 and features the HLN legal personality cooking simple, no-frills meals for her family. That series has drawn more than 200,000 views in its first two weeks, HLN officials said.

HLN is also in production on a third series, Chef’s Lab, which focuses on chef culture and how the backgrounds of some of the most famous chefs around the world have influenced their cooking styles and dishes.

King said the network hopes that the shortform offerings will serve as a potential incubator for future network series.

“We think of the digital series as a testing ground and lab for what would eventually make sense on television,” she said.

HLN hopes the online offerings will help the network reach younger viewers. To date, the network’s total-day viewer median age is 55, down one year from its 2014 figure. That compares favorably with traditional cable news networks like Fox News Channel (67 years), MSNBC (63 years) and CNN (61 years), the network said.

King also said the network (which disclosed last week that general manager Albie Hecht is leaving; Ken Jautz will run it on an interim basis) is also looking to take advantage of viewer interest in the 2016 presidential campaign through an initiative dubbed the “social horse race” that will look at how the presidential candidates are performing on social platforms. HLN has partnered with social-media research company CrowdTangle to see which candidates are getting social-media traction and how they compare with one another on various topics.

The results will be featured in segments on a number of HLN shows, including its series the Daily Share, according to King.

“So far, what we’re finding is that the [presidential] polls on various topics are different from what is reflected in social conversation,” King said. “That may be because of the age of those on social media compared to those participating in the polls, but it’s interesting to see the disparities so far.”

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.