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A Facebook TV Show? HLN Teams With Social-Media Giant On Pilot

Facebook is trying its hand at TV, teaming with Time Warner’s HLN network to produce a pilot for a series that will use the popular social network to find and tell interesting stories.

“We don’t and they don’t want this to feel like ‘The Facebook Show,'” said Kari Kim, vice president of development at HLN, in an interview. “It’s really about the stories and how we are using their tools” to discover information and identify what’s happening around the world.

Executives at the network, which is part of CNN Worldwide, said initial details remain sketchy. The pilot will make it to air in the first half of 2015, said Lila King, HLN’s senior director of product strategy and partnerships, but the network remains uncertain so far as to what form the program will ultimately take.

Options ranging from a weekly format to a series of specials have all been discussed, said Kim. No hosts have been decided upon either.

Social-media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have all put forth the notion that the conversations they host about popular culture, celebrity and TV programming boosts the ratings of any show one can name. But Facebook’s alliance with HLN suggests, in at least this one instance, that one of the big consumer-chatter giants sees a chance to generate more of the same with its own series.

“The initial ideas HLN came up with are very encouraging, and we are looking forward to getting to work and seeing what comes out of the production process,” said Andy Mitchell, director of news and global partnerships at Facebook, in a prepared statement.

Facebook teams with HLN as the network moves forward with a broad reworking of its content that centers more around social media than the traditional news updates that were once its stock in trade. That process was interrupted earlier this year when parent Time Warner considered an arrangement that would have let Vice Media, which has a reputation for you-are-there video journalism that takes viewers to far-flung parts of the world, essentially take over HLN. The arrangement would have created a new venture in which Time Warner might have had an ownership stake, but the two sides remained far apart on several aspects of the potential deal, which fell apart.

Now HLN is returning to its mission: Sifting through tweets, memes, posts and more to find cultural shifts and interesting stories. Among the programs HLN put on its development slate last February were a show that counts down the most-talked about entertainment properties, a game show that uses search and tag terms and a third that looks behind the scenes at online phenomena. Albie Hecht, a Viacom programming veteran, is leading the effort. Hosts like Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew remain on air.

“As HLN refines their programming to reflect the social conversation, which happens at an unprecedented scale on Facebook, we are excited to produce a pilot that reflects Facebook on TV in a very unique and creative way,” said Mitchell.

HLN’s King said she reached out to major social-media outlets as soon as she joined the network in February. “I think Facebook was the first call I made,” she said. “We’ve been trying to figure out what the right thing to do is, and I think we’ve hit on it.” Viewers of the show can likely take to Facebook to register their opinions on the program when it actually surfaces.

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