Rachel Nichols Exits ESPN for CNN and Turner Sports

Rachel Nichols Sportcaster Headshot - P 2012

Rachel Nichols Sportcaster Headshot - P 2012

The former "NFL Sunday Countdown" contributor joins Jake Tapper as the latest high-profile hire under new CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker.

Jeff Zucker’s hiring spree appears to be heating up. CNN and Turner Sports jointly announced Thursday that CNN has tapped veteran ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols to anchor a weekend sports program scheduled to bow later this year on the cable news network.

Nichols' deal also calls for her to contribute to Turner Sports coverage on TNT and TBS, which includes the NBA and Major League Baseball. And she’ll also cover major sports events like the Olympics for CNN; her first assignment will be the Feb. 3 Super Bowl in New Orleans, which will be broadcast on CBS.

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“We're just thrilled that a sports journalist of Rachel's stature and expertise will now be a regular part of the CNN lineup,” Zucker said in a statement. Nichols’ arrival, he added, “is an important step in expanding the range of programming and storytelling on CNN.”

Added David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports at Turner Broadcasting System: “Rachel is a high-profile talent and skilled reporter, and we are proud to have her join the Turner Broadcasting family. [Her] broadcast experience covering a wide variety of assignments including breaking news, major sports events, human-interest features and investigative pieces will be a perfect fit across Turner Sports’ many properties and platforms."

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Zucker was named president of CNN Worldwide in November and officially took over this month. Nichols is the latest high-profile hire for CNN. Earlier this month, the company poached well-regarded Washington reporter Jake Tapper from ABC News. Tapper made his debut on CNN this week. And he’ll get his only weekday program (most likely at 4 p.m.) later this year.

Zucker's stated mandate at CNN is not simply to improve the third-place cable news network's ratings but also to redefine the network's focus. During a conference call with reporters Nov. 29, he said that "news is more than just politics and war." adding that he'll be looking toward the broader palette of nonfiction content for programming that might work on CNN. 

“When I say nonfiction programming, I’m not talking about reality shows. I’m not talking about Honey Boo Boo," said Zucker, referring to the polarizing TLC program about a former child beauty queen. "But there is plenty of nonfiction programming that could fit very well under the CNN brand."

Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie