Anchors Aweigh: Fox Gets Greta


The revolving door for television news anchors spun again last week, when popular Cable News Network personality Greta Van Susteren jumped to competitor Fox News Channel.

CNN also signed NBC News correspondent Fredericka Whitfield, who will serve as an anchorperson.

Van Susteren, host of CNN's primetime talk show The Point— as well as the cancelled legal show Burden of Proof — will fill the 10 p.m. news void created when Paula Zahn bolted Fox News for CNN last September in a controversial move.

Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes would not reveal specifics of the deal, but sources said Fox News would pay Van Susteren around $1 million a year under a three-year agreement. CNN was said to have offered her more to extend her contract.

Along with anchoring Fox News's 10 p.m. show, Van Susteren — who enhanced her profile as a legal analyst during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the mid-1990s — will offer legal analysis. She is also slated to work on several specials for Fox News.

"We had a hole to fill at 10 p.m. We looked at a number of candidates, but we believed that Greta over time has developed a following that no woman in cable news has ever developed," Ailes said. "She will use her expertise for the channel and she's very competitive and will be a hard charger."

The hiring of Van Susteren continues the shuffling of high-profile, on-camera talent between the cable news networks. The network added Geraldo Rivera to its roster as the veteran newsman left CNBC's Rivera Live
during November in favor of his wont to cover the war in Afghanistan. Months earlier, Fox News grabbed reporter Steve Harrigan from CNN.

The changes also underscore the heightened competition in the sector, particularly between CNN, the category's historic leader, and the fast-charging Fox News. Ailes and Jamie Kellner, chairman of CNN parent Turner Broadcasting System Inc., traded barbs about audiences, advertising and personal attributes in a recent story in The New York Times.

Last year, Fox tied CNN in average primetime household ratings, as each earned a 1.0, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Fox News, though, posted a 43 percent increase over last year, compared with a 25 percent uptick for CNN.

"She obviously was the second-highest rated [show in primetime] and was very close to Larry King, so I think this is big for us and probably big for CNN," Ailes said. "Greta has proven over time that she can get an audience, and we are delighted to have Greta join Fox News Channel, where she will undoubtedly add depth to the highest-rated primetime lineup in cable news."

CNN/U.S. executive vice president and general manager Sid Bedingfield, in an internal memo to network staffers, said Van Susteren "has been an asset to CNN since we first hired her as a legal analyst 10 years ago." He added the network "respects her decision and — although she'll be working for a competitor — we wish her well."

A CNN spokeswoman would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Van Susteren's departure, but said the network "wishes Greta the best."

CNN sources said reporter Kate Snow would anchor the program short term, until a replacement is named.

Meanwhile, Whitfield will join CNN from NBC News, where she served as an Atlanta-based correspondent for NBC Nightly News
and other network programs. She also worked as a morning and afternoon anchor as well as an assignment reporter.

"Fredericka is a determined journalist whose energy is only rivaled by her passion to get the story," Bedingfield said in a statement. "Her addition to our team is a testament to her hard work and to CNN's dedication to providing excellent news coverage."