She took on Roger Goodell and Floyd Mayweather, anchored international sportscasts and covered championship matchups in basketball and baseball but for Rachel Nichols, its time to say so long to Turner.
While Nichols hasn't officially announced the move yet, it is being reported by ESPN book author Jim Miller and SI's Richard Deitsch that the sports television star is coming back home to the Worldwide Leader which has suffered immense loss in profits and manpower since her last stint at the network.
According to SI, Nichols will be covering issue oriented sports news. ESPN has been criticized in the past for marginalizing newsy shows such as Outside the Lines and E:60 while promoting cheap, hot take shows that "embrace debate." By signing Nichols, ESPN shows that they are still dedicated to hardcore sports journalism which hold the powerful accountable and isn't afraid to address stories in which politics and culture cross paths with sports.
As part of the deal, Nichols will host her own television show. This will give her the chance to showcase her interviewing chops and well as in-depth reporting by ESPN journalists that don't always get the attention they deserve. Nichols will also get the chance to do more reporting than she ever could at CNN.
While hiring Nichols was a forward-thinking endeavor by Jeff Zucker and the CNN staff, there just wasn't any place available on the network for her to grow. The impending 2016 election leaves no room for coverage of other topics such as sports unless major breaking news happens which is sporadic at best. Her show also didn't play well with the average CNN viewer and struggled to succeed in the ratings.
Nichols' agency, CAA, now has a new vehicle to showcase their clientele as well as ESPN personalities signed to their agency. Michelle Beadle, a CAA client, is in the last legs of her contract with ESPN and could play an essential role as a contributor to Nichols' new show through commentary, reporting or substitute anchoring when Nichols is reporting during other assignments.
ESPN has also been attempting to make sure viewers of some of their popular shows have a chance to experience those shows 24 hours a day online. First Take and SportsCenter normally host Periscope live streams before or after their respective shows while OTL has a 5 minute post show that airs on ESPN3. Expect Nichols' new show to have some sort of social media/digital presence unique to the actual telecast.
In this new age of athletes giving fans a peek into their lives through the Players Tribune and Uninterrupted, Nichols' new show and their digital outlets could be a place for CAA-signed athletes to provide a behind the scenes look at their craft.
Nichols also had a knack for interviewing entertainment stars to discuss sports so it should be no surprise if that same tradition carries onto Nichols' new show.
The biggest problem the show faces? When does it air?
ESPN's lineup is pretty full at this point.
No matter what happens though, it still seems like the safer bet for Nichols was to go to ESPN where the need for quality sports journalism is still intact.
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