CNN, Turner Sports Hire ESPN's Rachel Nichols As Reporter, Anchor
CNN and Turner Sports Thursday announced that they have hired ESPN’s Rachel Nichols to serve as a sports reporter and anchor a new weekend sports program on CNN beginning later this year. Nichols will cover all major sporting events, including the Olympics, for CNN. Her first assignment will be Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans (CNN/Turner Sports). THE BIG LEAD’s Jason McIntyre reported ESPN employees “privately expressed shock at her departure, which comes on the heels" of losing "SportsCenter" host Cindy Brunson in October and Erin Andrews and Michelle Beadle last summer. One could “argue that after Hannah Storm, Nichols was ESPN’s most prominent female voice.” A source said that Nichols “had two offers from major networks, and one from an all-sports network.” The source said ESPN’s offer was “tremendous.” But it did not “include hosting duties.” The source said that the move “has been in the works since about October” (THEBIGLEAD.com, 1/24). BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Tim Baysinger wrote the hire “falls in line with new CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker's comments back in November that CNN needed to broaden its definition of what news is” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 1/24). CNN Senior VP/PR Christa Robinson said, “You can characterize this move as an effort to increase sports programming on CNN” (USA TODAY, 1/25).
BANKING ON IT: In Boston, Chad Finn notes NBC Sports Network’s “The Crossover,” which debuts Monday at 6:00pm ET and will be co-hosted by Beadle and Dave Briggs, will be a "mix of sports, pop culture, and entertainment, with an emphasis on social media.” The net has acknowledged that it is "counting on ‘The Crossover’ to become one of its signature shows.” It is “banking on Beadle,” whose popularity is “as close to a safe bet as NBC Sports Network can make as it tries to establish itself as a destination cable sports network.” Still, nothing is “a guarantee, and the reality is harsh and apparent: The network, which currently receives some of its highest ratings for afternoon hunting programming, needs ‘The Crossover’ to succeed if it is ever going to make the impact it covets.” Beadle said, “There’s not just one place to go anymore, and part of us coming here and doing this show is to bring a fun half-hour, not take yourself too seriously. No contrived arguments where it feels forced or not organic” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/25).