America's Got Cable: HLN vs. CNBC

Welcome to another brutal week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!

OLD BUSINESS: Whoops, nobody cares about television for women! Well, eighteen of you do, I guess, but last week's matchup between Oxygen and OWN had the lowest commenter turnout yet. Still, though, the overwhelming majority voted for...


That seems about right. Neither of these channels features anything worth getting passionate about, plus a lot of people just plain don't like Oprah. Y'all left some funny explanations though... These two summed things up nicely:

DresserBoys: Oxygen for the Buffy reruns.... *coughs* I mean neither. Why are you asking me? I'm a guy.

whatupwiththat: I have to say OWN, if only out of fear of an Oprah attack.

Thanks for voting, and especially thank you for your awesome explanations. Keep 'em coming!

NEW BUSINESS: This week's battle will mostly involve information being screamed at ear-shattering volumes!


Background: Back in the early 1980s, media mogul Ted Turner busily hatched new cable channels, not unlike the queen in Aliens. One of them, CNN2, first appeared in 1982 to capitalize on the success of CNN, but was renamed CNN Headline News only a year later. Its biggest selling point was that it offered a complete roundup of news every half hour for viewers on the go. CNN Headline News pioneered the idea of the constant news feed at the bottom of the screen, and later became known for its excessively cluttered chyrons and informational programming geared mostly toward people in waiting rooms and airport lounges. In recent years, the channel rechristened itself to HLN and refocused its primetime schedule on talking-head punditry by the likes of Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Joy Behar.

Original Programming:HLN continues airing news in 30-minute cycles from 6am to 5pm (intermittently refreshed throughout the day), and then its personality-based shows kick in until 11pm or so. In addition to Nancy Grace, The Joy Behar Show, and Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell (whose hair and makeup alone deserve an Ironic Emmy), HLN now boasts a nightly show hosted by former Loveline host Dr. Drew Pinsky.

Reruns HLN mostly reruns its own content, but for a time it used to rerun CNN shows like Larry King Live, as well as selected documentary specials.

Why It's The Best:Say what you will about Nancy Grace or Jane Velez-Mitchell, but they pursue (okay, muckrake) stories that many others won't, and they are also endlessly, unintentionally hilarious.

Why It's The Worst: As one of our oldest cable channels, it's almost a little sad how HLN traded its initial purpose (a terrific one, too) to join the more lucrative market of highly biased, sensationalistic punditry like all the rest of the cable news networks. Sometimes you just want the facts, you know?


Background First a fun fact: CNBC does not stand for Cable NBC (as I always believed it did). Nope, CNBC actually stands for Consumer News and Business Channel and it's merely owned and operated by NBC (National Broadcasting Company). Got that? The letters "NBC" mean different things. That same peacock appears in both logos, but that's just corporate synergy. Anyway! CNBC originally launched around 1980 as the Satellite Program Network, which, like many cable channels of the era, mostly aired old movies, reruns, and cut-rate entertainment programs. But NBC eventually bought SPN in 1989 and rebranded it CNBC before merging it with another cable acquisition, the Financial News Network. Today CNBC is considered the foremost information outlet for financial news.

Original Programming: Much like Headline News, CNBC tends to divide its schedule according to business hours and primetime. During the day, it airs a nonstop barrage of financial news shows that all boast a similarly dizzying array of tickers and onscreen graphics. The more recognizable financial news personalities include Lawrence Kudlow, Maria Bartiromo, and the very shouty Jim Cramer. But in the evening and on weekends, CNBC mellows out with some NBC network reruns and its impressive array of original series like American Greed, 'Til Debt Do Us Part, The Facebook Obsession, and the gloriously titled How Much Is Your Dead Body Worth? My absolute personal favorite, however, is Saturday night's Suze Orman Show—this woman is like a perfect hybrid of Mother Theresa, Ayn Rand, and Jerri Blank. Riveting television.

Reruns: The aforementioned NBC reruns have included things like The Apprentice, Deal or No Deal, and—for one amazing era—Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The current lineup also includes America's Next Great Restaurant and, weirdly enough, CBS's 60 Minutes.

Why It's The Best: For subject matter as dry and/or stressful as financial news, CNBC has figured out a way to pack its schedule with entertaining television.

Why It's The Worst: Sometimes I just want to watch something trashy while I eat a sandwich, you know? CNBC is for grownups!

Official Verdict:

All right, I might spend all of my money on blue candy, but CNBC actually makes me want to be responsible with it. I'm going with CNBC.

But now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: HLN or CNBC? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?

Click below to see the full tournament bracket, and read previous America's Got Cable stories here.

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