With Zimmerman Trial, CNN And HLN Now Competing At 10 PM

By Alex Weprin 

For the last few years, CNN and HLN have been separate fiefdoms under the Time Warner umbrella. HLN has focused on coverage of court cases, mixed in with lighter entertainment fare (both genres which appeal heavily to female viewers) while CNN continues to base its brand on its breaking news prowess.

Now, however, there is some serious overlap between the channels. At 10 PM, CNN is programming a special hour of “AC360” looking at the day’s developments in the George Zimmerman murder trial. HLN has been gearing up for the trial for months, and has made it the single biggest story every day. Both channels are now managed by Jeff Zucker, who took over as the president of CNN Worldwide early this year.

HLN chief Scot Safon talks to the AP’s David Bauder about competing with his sister network:

“If someone else is doing it, I would rather have them doing it,” Safon said. “I work for CNN.”

Although he didn’t initiate any corporate battle over CNN’s “Self Defense or Murder?” show, “I looked at it very carefully,” Safon said…

“At times I wish we were not talking about the exact same stories,” Safon said. But he noted that the two programs are different in their approaches and play to the strength of each network. Zucker runs both networks as head of CNN Worldwide, and has paid particularly close attention to beefing up CNN’s prime-time lineup.

The Cooper-anchored hour on CNN is a more sober recap of the events while “After Dark” is more stylized. The show’s format is to have a dozen members of the public acting as the jury while lawyers familiar with the case argue both sides of a particular issue addressed in that day’s testimony.