Monday, June 04, 2018

Viacom Announces Leadership Transition at Nickelodeon Group

Original Viacom Inc. Press Release via Business Wire:

Viacom Announces Leadership Transition at Nickelodeon Group

Cyma Zarghami to Step Down as President

Sarah Levy to Lead Nickelodeon on Interim Basis as Search Process Commences

June 04, 2018 02:10 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Cyma Zarghami (Credit: Justin Stephens Photography)

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA) today announced that Cyma Zarghami is stepping down as President of Nickelodeon Group after more than thirty years with the network. While Viacom conducts a comprehensive search for a successor to lead Nickelodeon, Sarah Levy, Chief Operating Officer of Viacom Media Networks, will lead the brand on an interim basis.

“Over the course of her career, Cyma has played an integral role in growing Nickelodeon into the dominant force in kids’ entertainment. Her instincts for creating content and experiences that kids love have been vital to the brand’s success around the world,” said Bob Bakish, President and CEO of Viacom. “Looking to the future, we are excited to build on this strong foundation as we continue to evolve the business and connect with young audiences in new and innovative ways. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Cyma for her leadership and wish her every success.”

During the transition, Levy will work closely with Nickelodeon’s leadership team to manage the brand’s operations. Their focus will be to successfully launch Nickelodeon’s largest-ever content pipeline of more than 800 new episodes and accelerate the brand’s push into new and next-generation viewing platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products.

Zarghami joined Nickelodeon in 1985 and was named its President in 2006. Under her leadership, Nickelodeon has become a leading global brand for kids, spanning linear and multiplatform programming, film, live experiences and consumer products. Along the way, Zarghami recruited and cultivated high-performing, diverse talent that always reflected the next generation of kids, and the brand continues to attract the industry’s leading creatives and personalities. Today, Nickelodeon has the highest share of total viewing in kids’ television.

About Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon, now in its 39th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, recreation, books and feature films. Nickelodeon’s U.S. television network is seen in more than 90 million households and has been the number-one-rated kids’ basic cable network for 22 consecutive years. For more information or artwork, visit Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB).

About Viacom

Viacom is home to premier global media brands that create compelling entertainment content - including television programs, motion pictures, short-form content, games, consumer products, podcasts, live events and social media experiences – for audiences in 183 countries. Viacom's media networks, including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, VH1, TV Land, CMT, Logo, Channel 5 (UK), Telefe (Argentina), Colors (India) and Paramount Channel, reach approximately 4.3 billion cumulative television subscribers worldwide. Paramount Pictures is a major global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment. Paramount Television develops, finances and produces original programming for television and digital platforms.

For more information about Viacom and its businesses, visit Keep up with Viacom news by following Viacom's blog at and Twitter feed at


NickALive! wishes Cyma Zarghami all the best in her future endeavours.

Here are Bakish’s internal memos to the Nickelodeon and Viacom staffs:

"Team Nickelodeon,

We are announcing today that Cyma Zarghami is stepping down from her role as President of Nickelodeon Group, and I wanted to let all of you know first, before I notify the rest of the company.

I don’t have to tell any of you how much Cyma has meant to Nickelodeon, and how her leadership has helped lead the brand to success after success over the course of her incredible four decades at the company. She is a true pioneer, championing Nick’s growth from a niche cable channel early on to the groundbreaking global powerhouse it is today.

It is never easy to say goodbye, but her legacy here is long, and she leaves behind an incredible team of smart, dedicated people who are a model of creativity and collaboration across the industry. I have full confidence in all of you that the Nickelodeon brand will continue to grow and thrive as we provide kids and families with the very best entertainment content available anywhere.

We are going to conduct a comprehensive search process for Cyma’s successor, and on an interim basis, Sarah Levy will be leading Nickelodeon in addition to her responsibilities as COO of Viacom Media Networks. Many of you know Sarah from her own long tenure at Nick, and you will be hearing more from her soon.

Please join me in thanking Cyma for her many contributions to Nickelodeon and to Viacom and wishing her every success in the future. I also want to thank you all for everything you do each day to further evolve and grow this great brand. I’m looking forward to working together to shape Nickelodeon’s exciting next chapter.




I want to let you all know that Cyma Zarghami is stepping down from her role as President of Nickelodeon Group.

Over the course of more than 30 years, Cyma has played an integral role in growing Nickelodeon into the dominant force in kids’ entertainment. Those of you who have worked alongside her know that her passion for Nickelodeon is second to none, and her instincts for creating content and experiences kids love have been vital to the brand’s success around the world.

Having risen through the ranks beginning in 1985, Cyma’s career spans Nickelodeon’s explosive growth and expansive influence as both a brand and a giant, successful business, guiding it into new areas beyond its unparalleled TV leadership, like feature films, consumer products, recreation, digital and beyond. From the single cable channel Nick once was, to the multiplatform entity it is today, Cyma’s contributions have been immeasurable, and her success has stemmed from her devotion to Nickelodeon’s mission to make the world a more playful place for kids everywhere.

While we conduct a comprehensive search process for Cyma’s successor, Sarah Levy will lead the brand on an interim basis as it begins its next chapter, in addition to her responsibilities as COO of Viacom Media Networks. Sarah previously spent nearly 20 years at Nickelodeon, including a decade as its Chief Operating Officer, and knows the Nickelodeon brand inside and out. She also brings valuable experience managing operations across our entire portfolio, and couldn’t be better positioned to offer her support and guidance.

As we all know, this transition comes during a moment of immense change and opportunity across our industry, particularly within kids’ entertainment. Nickelodeon was the first truly flagship brand in the house – spanning TV, digital, film and real world experiences – and it continues to evolve and grow as quickly as our audiences do, too.

I’m proud to say that Nickelodeon continues to make big, important moves to lead in this new landscape – from its pipeline of 800 new episodes this year (the brand’s largest ever), to the launch of Noggin on Amazon Channels, and SlimeFest’s upcoming and long-awaited U.S. debut in Chicago. Nickelodeon will also play a key role in our refreshed 2019 Paramount film slate with its co-branded films, Wonder Park and Dora the Explorer. And I’m confident that Sarah and the outstanding team at Nickelodeon will continue to accelerate the brand’s exciting push into new and next-generation viewing platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products.

Please join me in thanking Cyma for her many contributions to Nickelodeon and wishing her every success in the future.


News of Zarghami's - the last veteran top Viacom executive from the company’s previous regime - departure should come as little surprise. In February, Viacom expanded Levy's role as she added oversight of Nickelodeon (and BET) to a purview that already included operations and strategy for MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike/Paramount Network, CMT, TV Land, Logo and Viacom International Media Networks. That meant there was an additional executive overseeing Nickelodeon alongside Zarghami, who had been head of the kids-focsued cable network since 2006. Zarghami reported directly from Bakish.

Zarghami, a staple on THR's annual Women in Entertainment power list, was nearing the end of her contract at the time of February announcement. Sources at the time say the 32-year Nickelodeon veteran had no plans to leave the network despite having her role dramatically reduced in recent years.

As part of Bakish's efforts to revitalize the media conglomerage, he regrouped Viacom's cable networks and removed TV Land and CMT from Zarghami's Kids and Family Group to the Global Entertainment Group overseen by Kevin Kay. Under the realignment, the company focused on six “flagship” brands, which include Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. as well as BET.

In the year-plus since Bakish took over Viacom, he has made changes at all of its cable networks. Most recently, Debra Lee — who had been with BET for 32 years — stepped down in May. Scott M. Mills took over as president, with Viacom opting to not replace the executive as CEO and chairman of the African-American-focused cabler. Before that, Chris McCarthy took over MTV, VH1 and Logo; Kent Alterman replaced Michele Ganeless as president of Comedy Central; Kay replaced Sharon Levy at Spike, which was rebranded to become Viacom's general entertainment hub Paramount Network; Brian Philips was pushed out after a 16-year run as CMT president, with Frank Tanki absorbing his role on top of his duties at TV Land. (Meanwhile, TV Land topper Keith Cox took on a larger role as head of development for the niche cabler as well as Paramount Network as TV Land is no longer buying scripted originals.)

For her part, Zarghami joined Nickelodeon in 1985 and was tapped president in 2006. Under her oversight, Nickelodeon became a leading brand for kids. Most recently, Nickelodeon and other kids-focused outlets like Disney Channel have faced mounting competition from deep-pocketed streamers Netflix and Amazon who have expanded their purview to include youth-oriented fare.

During the transition, Levy will work closely with Nickelodeon's leadership team to manage operations. The focus will be to launch the cabler's largest-ever content pipeline of more than 800 new episodes and accelerate its push into next-gen platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products. As part of that push, Nick revived '80s staple Double Dare, Blue's Clues and is eyeing a reboot of Clarissa Explains It All, with original star Melissa Joan Hart with corporate parent Viacom betting on live events like SlimeFest and Comedy Central's Clusterfest in a bid to cut through a cluttered landscape and help make noise for both brands.

The changes come amid a potential merger between Viacom and CBS Corp.

Update - Via Variety:

Cyma Zarghami, Giant in Kids’ TV, Steps Down From Nickelodeon

Credit: Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Cyma Zarghami, who rose from a job in 1985 as a scheduling clerk at Nickelodeon to become president of the unit and one of the leaders in children’s television, will leave the Viacom-owned outlet after working there for more than three decades, the company said Monday.

Viacom said Sarah Levy, chief operating officer of Viacom’s global entertainment group, and an executive close to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, would run Nickelodeon on an interim basis, while the company conducts a search for a successor.

Nickelodeon is one of Viacom’s main financial tentpoles, and Zarghami leaves the unit as the challenge of monetizing programming designed for a generation of young consumers accustomed to surfing through content on-demand is only intensifying. Zarghami’s position at Nickelodeon has been under scrutiny since February, when Viacom expanded Levy’s role to give her oversight of select functions at Nickelodeon that had been under Zarghami’s purview. Levy has responsibility for everything from business development to research and production management and also advises on legal affairs, human resources and content distribution.

She leaves as Viacom has made changes among many of its top programming executives. Debra Lee left her job as chairman and CEO of BET Networks on May 28.

When asked by Variety in March whether she expected to stay at the company, Zaghami replied, “Well, I’m definitely still here, and we have a lot of work to do, so that’s what I’m focused on,” she said. When asked if people could assume they would see her at Nickelodeon’s 2019 upfront, she said, “I assume.” The Wall Street Journal in February reported that Viacom had discussed the idea of enlisting an outside executive to take the top role at Nickelodeon. A company spokesman declined to offer more information about when Viacom may have started seeking a new leader for its kids-TV unit.

Nickelodeon is nothing to toy with. The unit includes not only the flagship kids’ network, but also Nick Jr., a cable network aimed at preschoolers. The duo have been some of Viacom’s best performers, even as the company has grappled with young viewers migrating to other forms of video entertainment. In recent months, Nickelodeon has rolled out new franchises like the live-action series “Henry Danger” and the animated “The Loud House” even as it has retooled old favorites like “Blue’s Clues,” “Double Dare” and “Hey Arnold” for new modern iterations. The company was also working to bring its intellectual properties to new venues, including a Broadway play based on “SpongeBob Squarepants” and a new “Slimefest” event slated to debut later this week.

Viacom doesn’t break out operating results at its subsidiaries but noted in its most recent earnings report that U.S. advertising revenues fell 3% in the first three months of the year, to $841 million, owing to reduced viewership. Nickelodeon typically has better ratings than its main rivals, Walt Disney’s Disney Channel or Time Warner’s Cartoon Network. In 2017, Nickelodeon drew an average of 609,000 kids between the ages of 2 and 11, according to Nielsen, compared with 306,000 for Cartoon Network and 364,000 for Disney Channel. All three networks shed viewers compared to 2016.

Zarghami had been plotting a strategy that involved generating more content to keep her unit’s young audience engaged. Nickelodeon in March unveiled plans to release more than 800 new episodes of its various TV series, a jump of about 20% over last season’s output of around 700 new episodes. “Your odds of getting a fat hit are greater if you have more at-bats,” Zarghami told Variety at the time.“We are filling more platforms, between apps, and the international business and other channels. We have a new energized relationship with the [Paramount] movie studio. We have a lot of mouths to feed, so more is obviously better.”


Additional sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline.
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