CNN's Collins to leave as part of major changes announced at cable network

CNN announced a series of changes on Thursday that include the departure of longtime dayside anchor Heidi Collins, as well as the reduction of Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room” to two hours.

The majority of the changes will take place at programming that airs out of CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, a network spokeswoman said Thursday.

They include Collins’ departure, which will be on Jan. 15.

The network did not give details but said her contract would not be renewed.

Collins joined CNN in 2002 as an anchor for its sister network, Headline News, now known simply as HLN.

Longtime CNN anchor Kyra Phillips will move into that timeslot, the network confirmed.

CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi will take Phillips’ place, anchoring the 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. segment of “CNN Newsroom.”

Velshi will continue to anchor “Your $$$$$” as well, the network said.

Velshi, who was working out of New York, will move to Atlanta and start his new job on Jan. 18.

CNN will make two other changes on that day. Rick Sanchez will begin a new program, “Rick’s List,” which will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

In February, anchor John King will begin a weekly news show focused on politics at 7 p.m. Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room” will be cut from three hours to two.

King is replacing Lou Dobbs, who announced in November he was leaving the network after nearly 20 years.

CNN’s ratings plummeted in 2009, particularly during prime time, a key slot for advertisers. While the Atlanta-based cable network has lagged behind bitter rival Fox News, it also fell behind MSNBC and HLN.

Network executives announced major changes in November as well, combining CNN Productions, which made documentaries, with the network's investigations unit.

Additionally, Soledad O'Brien's "In America" franchise -- which produced "Black in America" and "Latino in America" -- will be expanded and will be its own separate unit in 2010.

Two longtime executives also said they were leaving the network at that time.

However, CNN executives emphasize that the network continues to draw more viewers than all its competitors except Fox News when all hours of the day are counted.