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