Albie Hecht continues his march through HLN, today whacking Showbiz Tonight in the midst of trophy season. The entire staff — about a dozen strong — is out, excluding host A.J. Hammer, who will stay on to cover entertainment news for Hecht’s new vision of the network. The final broadcast will be Thursday when nobody will notice, much less care, as all eyes will be on Jay Leno’s final show at 11:35 PM that night. As with Leno’s team, laid-off Showbiz Tonight staffers are being encouraged to apply for other jobs at their network. “I want to thank the entire Showbiz Tonight crew for their many years of tireless dedication and work,” writes Hecht in a note to staff, obtained by TVNewser, which first reported the whacking that happened just shy of the show’s ninth anniversary on HLN. Showbiz Tonight debuted February 21, 2005.
Last November, about a month after taking over as GM and EVP at HLN, former Spike TV founder Hecht made some scheduling moves, replacing Kyra Phillips-anchored Raising America with a repeat of previous day’s Showbiz Tonight. (The Ryan Smith-anchored Evening Express was replaced by What Would You Do? — the ABC News show to which HLN bought cable TV rerun rights about a year ago.) “We have a real opportunity to grow the HLN brand; let’s get started,” Hecht said in a memo to staffers back then.