Just days before the hysteria of Super Bowl XLVII media week begins, CNN makes a super steal.
They've hired Rachel Nichols away from ESPN, where she's been entrenched for close to a decade, Next month would have marked her ninth year at the Worldwide Leader.
Instead, she'll be hitting the ground running for Turner Sports, as well as the Turner-owned cable news network, CNN. According to a network press release, her first order of business is covering the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
What's more, the network is also launching a new weekend sports show, expected to debut in the spring. Until then, you will most likely see her reports from New Orleans next week among currently-scheduled news-oriented CNN programming, such as "The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer."
And most importantly, Nichols will be CNN's jack-of-all-trades when it comes to sports. She'll "cover all major sporting events, including the Olympics" for the network, reads the press release.
Nichols' hire, as well as the announcement of the yet-to-be-named weekend sports program she'll be hosting, are the first actions by Jeff Zucker as president of CNN Worldwide. He got quite a lot of flak during his waning days as CEO of NBC Universal.
So it's hard to fathom that the man responsible for turning Nichols into yet another in a long line of ESPN defectors of late, is the same person who greenlighted Jay Leno's 10 PM (ET) primetime show.
"Her arrival," Zucker said of Nichols, "is an important step in expanding the range of programming and storytelling on CNN."
"I believe in Jeff’s vision for CNN," Nichols said of Zucker. "I couldn't be more excited to join the CNN and Turner Sports family."
The scheduling of Nichols' new show appears to be the first commitment to sports programming at CNN in quite awhile. Of course, for years, when they were the only game in town as far as cable news is concerned, they aired a nightly program titled "Sports Tonight," which over the years was hosted by future ESPN talent such as Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, as well as Hannah Storm and Dan Hicks, who are now married. The show was hosted for seventeen of its 21 years by Nick Charles, who passed away in 2011. The show was renamed "CNN/Sports Illustrated" in 2006, as a nod to synergy with Turner's sports news network, CNN/SI. The program was briefly placed on hiatus around the 2000 election, and was relaunched with a new interactive format the following year. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the show was shifted exclusively to CNN/SI until 2002, which is when the network ceased operations. The Sports Illustrated magazine is still a part of the Time Warner media umbrella.
Just a thought: With the many new sports networks and channels that have sprung up and are continuing to do so, does anyone see Nichols' hire as the first step in a revamping of an all-sports channel by Turner? They own over a dozen cable networks, mostly in the news field. Turner is also part-owner of the NBA TV network. I realize Zucker is doing business only for CNN, and Nichols will be busy covering sports all the time for CNN - but wouldn't it make more sense if she was reporting for a Turner sports news network? I mean, I can see Nichols doing live reports from New Orleans during Super Bowl week with Piers Morgan. But should it really be the norm for her to appear on CNN's daily news programs? Are we really going to have Rachel Nichols appearing live from the NFL Draft on "Anderson Cooper 360"?
Yes, Nichols will be reporting across Turner Sports' digital platforms as well as their television properties. But someone of her stature shouldn't be relegated to a weekend CNN show and the Internet.
It would not surprise me if Turner concentrated on a new sports network in the near future.
Until then, the best of luck to Rachel Nichols in the next chapter of her sports media career.
She could actually lead frequent viewers of ESPN, NFL Network and the like to regularly sample CNN.
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