Turning network broadcasters into cable stars is becoming a trend at CNN. The latest to get the treatment is former ABC News correspondent Connie Chung.
Chung joins former CBS News and Fox News anchor Paula Zahn and fellow ABC vet Aaron Brown as CNN's high-profile broadcast acquisitions.
The names may not have the wattage of a Barbara Walters or Dan Rather, but they are the seasoned TV journalists CNN is counting on to spiff up its image and boost ratings. Upstart Fox News Channel and, to some degree, MSNBC, have eroded CNN's ratings; Fox News regularly beats CNN in prime time.
CNN landed Chung by offering her what the broadcast networks never could: her own prime time newscast. She will fill the 8 p.m. hour vacated when The Point
host Greta Van Susteren departed for Fox News.
"I will be able dedicate myself to an hour of news," Chung said. "It's not an entertainment network; it's not a talk network."
Chung most recently co-anchored ABC's 20/20, where she was perhaps best known for landing an exclusive interview with Gary Condit last August.
CNN is Chung's fourth television home in her 33-year TV-news career. Before joining ABC in 1997, she did tours at both NBC News and CBS News, where, among other tasks, she co-anchored the CBS Evening News
with Dan Rather. It was an awkward pairing.
CNN's conversations with Chung heated up once it became clear Van Susteren was leaving. "If everyone was locked in, we wouldn't have had something to offer Connie," CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson said.
ABC released Chung with one year remaining on her contract. She said ABC News President David Westin was "gracious and fair" about her desire to pursue opportunities at CNN.
Chung reportedly took a pay cut to move to cable, although neither she nor CNN execs would comment on her compensation. She was estimated to earn $4 million per year at ABC; sources say AOL Time Warner's CNN will pay her close to $3 million in salary and stock options.
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