HEADLINER: Changing the image of CNN is the main priority for TV chief

Nan Richards sees CNN as more than 24-hour news. Gordon MacMillan reports.

Nan Richards sees CNN as more than 24-hour news. Gordon MacMillan

reports.



Nicola Horlick, still splashing around in her excruciatingly long 15

minutes of fame, revealed last week in the Daily Mail that the reason

there are so few women at the top is that they do not work hard

enough.



Most women, she said, are simply not cut out for it.



While that might sound like reactionary twaddle, Nan Richards - one of

the two new co-managing directors for Turner Broadcasting Systems - is

one of those women who has cut it. She’s got there by being tough, Tania

Alonzi, a board account director at CIA Medianetwork, says, ’because

women in this business have to be’.



Richards’ promotion gives her responsibility for the profit and loss

operation of CNN International across Europe, the Middle East and Africa

(EMEA). In addition, she has control of advertising sales, marketing,

distribution and public relations and has the extra title of executive

vice-president of news networks, EMEA.



Richards takes the helm at CNN as the company comes to a crossroads in

its development. Competition is now at its most fierce. Look at last

autumn’s European Media and Marketing Survey - while on one front CNN

enjoys awareness of 73.5 per cent, it was only EBN and BBC World that

registered an increase in viewing share. CNN and NBC went down. On top

of this, CNN, one of the world’s leading brands, has an image

problem.



The problem lies chiefly in the way CNN is perceived as an international

news channel, reporting from around the globe and having plenty of

programmes that begin with the word ’world’.



Take the Monday to Friday schedule, for example. Kicking off at 06:00

there is World News, followed by Inside Politics, then World News/Global

View, followed by Moneyline and back to World News, then World Sport and

then, yes, more World News and ... well, you get the picture.



Richards points out that CNN is not a 24-hour news channel - it is more

than that. This statement comes as a surprise, but then she says that

part of the problem is one of awareness.



’If people have not tuned in over the past nine months they will not

know the look of it. There is a perception that we are a 24-hour news

channel - we are not. We have launched, and are launching, programmes

and we’re looking at it on a country-by-country basis.’



Richards wants to help change the image of CNN, not so much among

advertisers whom, she says, have already got the message, but among

consumers.



’When we initially launched in Europe, the service was just a by-product

of Atlanta Centre. Now as much as 75 per cent is non-US programming. We

are tuning in new viewers with programmes such as Q&A and Insight.

People just do not realise we are not a US-centric network.



’We are all on a mission to raise awareness. In the past we have not

made a concerted effort. But we have a lot of room to grow. We have to

introduce people to the programming, but I know we are working with very

entrenched views.’



The biggest part of her mission is going to be convincing people that

CNN is a channel where you make an appointment to view and is not simply

a channel you go to when an international news story is breaking.

Richards knows these long-established misconceptions make for an uphill

struggle.



Nick Brien, the managing director of Leo Burnett, says Richards is

certainly up to the job. ’In the international media environment she has

tremendous fortitude. She has been representing a business that was in

its infancy for a long time.



That sense of fortitude to battle against perception and negativity has

always endeared her to many clients and advertisers.’



Richards is not fazed by the mammoth task. She is decidedly sanguine and

points to the fact that Turner has, for the first time, split the

company into separate businesses. CNN had, before now, been part of a

unit that included the film channel, TNT, and Cartoon Network. This

makes all the difference, Richards says.



Strangely enough, Richards could have ended up on the other side of the

camera. She has a degree in journalism and you could quite easily

imagine Tom and Bob, the co-anchormen from Atlanta Centre, turning to

Richards and asking, as they do: ’Well, how’s it looking in London,

Nan?’



A diminutive and stylishly dressed figure, Richards would, of course,

reply: ’I think these changes give us the potential to push towards the

next level in Europe.’



The Richards file



1985: World Championship Tennis, New York, promotions assistant



1987: Turner Broadcasting Sales, New York, sales planner



1991: TBSI, sales manager/vice-president



1993: CNN International and TNT, vice-president, advertising sales



1996: CNN/TNT, executive vice-president, Europe and Asia



1997: News networks, EMEA, executive vice-president.



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