ESPN has seen some big names including Michelle Beadle and Erin Andrews leave in the past year. Now Rachel Nichols joins that list, as part of new CNN head Jeff Zucker’s aggressive recruiting. Nichols, a nine-year veteran of ESPN, will work with Turner Sports on event coverage and cover all major sports for CNN. She will get her own weekend sports program as well.
Nichols’ first assignment is a high profile one: Super Bowl XLVII.
CNN has attempted to cut into ESPN’s sports dominance before, including a partnership with Time Warner property Sports Illustrated. The CNN/SI network never caught on and shuttered in 2002. CNN’s ratings have been steadily declining, so Time Warner brought former NBC CEO Zucker on board to turn things around.
Zucker’s work at the Today Show fueled his rise to NBC Universal CEO. But NBC’s flagging ratings and the Tonight Show shift from Jay Leno to Conan O’ Brien, then back to Jay Leno tarnished his once rising star. His unconventional plan to resurrect CNN may include reality shows and documentaries. He’s also bringing aboard TV personalities with established followings, such as Nichols and former Travel Channel star Anthony Bourdain. He will join Nichols as part of CNN’s new weekend lineup.
Will the new CNN have more in common with Bravo and ESPN than it does a 24-hour news network? To get the ratings back, it may have to.