Rachel Nichols Jumps to Showtime After Turbulent ESPN Exit

Rachel Nichols basketball-journalism career has taken a new bounce.

The longtime sports reporter is joining Showtime’s sports division, where she will work on the unit’s basketball content vertical as both a host and producer.

More from Variety

“We are delighted to welcome Rachel Nichols to the Showtime Basketball family,” said Brian Dailey, senior vice president of sports programming and content for Showtime, in a prepared statement. “Rachel brings unmatched journalistic credibility, great familiarity with our roster and a work ethic that will take us to another level.”

She has also carried some baggage. Nichols left her previous employer, Walt Disney’s ESPN, after becoming embroiled in a controversy in which a video recording of her complaining about a colleague, Maria Taylor, being awarded a role Nichols had been guaranteed under contract, became public. The revelation of the video spurred internal complaints and division within the sports-media giant. ESPN took Nichols off her daily basketball show, “The Jump,” and both she and Taylor ended up leaving the company.

Nichols has for the first time addressed the squabble and its causes. Speaking on “All The Smoke With Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, a Showtime Basketball video podcast, Nichols discussed the incident, noting that the recording was taken of her while she was in a Florida hotel room to work on site for ESPN’s NBA coverage, inadvertently leaving open a video line to ESPN’s Bristol, CT headquarters. The line was broadcasting for hours, she said, but no one at ESPN told her. “One person decided to just sit and watch and start spying on me, like I was their own personal television show,” Nichols said. “When they heard something they thought was juicy, they picked up their cell phone and they started recording me.”

Related video: Cast of Showtime's 'Yellowjackets' play How Well Do You Know Your Cast?

At issue were hosting duties for ESPN’s annual coverage of the NBA Finals, something Nichols says she had been assigned as part of contract with the sports-media outlet. ESPN executives, Nichols says, wanted to give Taylor those responsibilities, and pressured Nichols to give them up. But hosting the Finals had been a “dream,” she says, and so she discussed the issue during phone calls while staying in the hotel room

“I feel very sorry that any of this touched Maria Taylor, because she is a fellow woman in this business. It wasn’t her fault that any of this was going on,” says Nichols. “To even bring her into that was a mistake on my part, and that it caused her to be upset in any way — I don’t want to be that person.” Nichols says she tried to arrange a meeting with Taylor, but was unable to do so. Taylor is now working for NBC Sports, where she was recently named the host of “Football Night in America.”

Basketball-themed content on Showtime includes feature length documentaries and docu-series. Some of the projects have been produced by LeBron James’ SpringHill Company and Kevin Durant’s 35 Ventures.

Nichols has a long history with basketball. She helped create ESPN’s daily NBA program, “The Jump,” and hosted it from its inception in 2016. She spent nearly a decade writing for The Washington Post, where she covered the NHL, NBA, MLB, tennis and the Olympics. She also worked at Turner Sports from 2013 to 2016 where she hosted CNN’s “Unguarded With Rachel Nichols,” and, covered the NBA, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the MLB playoffs. among other events. Her first stint at ESPN began in 2004, where she covered the NFL, NBA, contributed as a correspondent for “E:60″ and to”SportsCenter.”

She joins Showtime, part of Paramount Global, as speculation has begun to ramp up about the next round of TV rights for the NBA. The league’s current contract with ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Turner Sports lapses after the 2024-2025 season. Business observers wonder whether Warner Bros. Discovery, which is grappling with a significant amount of debt since its formation earlier this year, will be eager to pay what are likely to be significant increases in costs to keep the NBA under its aegis.

VIP+ Analysis: Why Sports TV Is Slow to Embrace FAST

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.