Ms. Nichols is one of the first hires since Jeff Zucker officially joined CNN as president this month. Mr. Zucker previously played a role in successfully concluding talks to poach ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper last month. Mr. Tapper was named CNN's chief Washington correspondent.
In addition to hosting the planned sports program, Ms. Nichols will cover major sports events for CNN, starting with the upcoming Super Bowl, and report for Turner Sports, a sibling of CNN within Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System.
A CNN spokeswoman declined to elaborate further on the weekend sports program.
"We're just thrilled that a sports journalist of Rachel's stature and expertise will now be a regular part of the CNN lineup," Mr. Zucker said in a statement. "Her arrival, beginning next week, is an important step in expanding the range of programming and storytelling on CNN."
Ms. Nichols comes from ESPN, where she spent nearly a decade working as a correspondent for "SportsCenter," "NFL Countdown," "NBA Countdown" and the news magazine "E:60."