Saturday, February 23, 2019

How Brian Robbins and Team Are Building Nickelodeon's Future

Nickelodeon's new slate of programming includes reboots of favorites and content for today’s tech-savvy kids.

When Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins took the stage at the Viacom’s Spark panel for employees, one of the things he wanted to make perfectly clear is that the newly-installed leadership team is not comprised of executives—they’re creatives, just like the staffers who make the brand’s shows.

“I wanted to identify makers,” said Robbins. Since taking the helm at Nickelodeon last October, he has selected Shauna Phelan to be head of live-action scripted shows, Ramsey Naito to be head of animation production and development, Rob Bagshaw to be head of unscripted content, and Paul DeBenedittis to be head of programming and content strategy. “I knew if we could build a team like that, we could win. There’s a big difference between talking about making things and knowing how to.”

Robbins has been tasked with revitalizing the network’s programming and bringing content to a generation of viewers accustomed to watching it on various devices. To achieve that, Robbins introduced his leadership team—all of whom have either worked full-time at Nickelodeon previously or on its projects—and he unveiled a strategy that includes a commitment to diversity and programming that’s conducive to family viewing and gives kids the ability to watch on a range of platforms and devices.

"We’ve all been talking about taking risks and not getting bogged down in bureaucracy. That is inspiring to the creative process." - Ramsey Naito, EVP of Animation Production and Development at Nickelodeon

During the panel presentation, he and Naito also spoke of their dedication to airing animated shorts from Nickelodeon’s library and new artists as a way to quickly get fresh content on-air and attract top talent looking to make their mark.

“We’ve all been talking about taking risks and not getting bogged down in bureaucracy,” says Naito. “That is inspiring to the creative process.”

Another change Robbins made is creating an unscripted department, which the kids’ channel hasn’t previously had.

Hours before the panel, Nickelodeon made major programming announcements. Among them is a reboot of All That, of which original cast members Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell (Kenan & Kel, Good Burger) will serve executive producers; The Casagrandes, an animated spinoff of The Loud House, and an untitled scripted music series set in a boarding school for the performing arts, which will feature original songs performed in every episode. It’s being produced by Simon Fuller (the producer behind American Idol) and One Republic frontman, Ryan Tedder.

“Music is such a big part of kids’ lives, we have to be in the music space,” Robbins says. “Out of it might come a boy band or a K-pop group. It’s a way for us to have our own incubator for musical talent but at the core is a great musical show.”

Robbins suggested they could skip signing with a record label and instead upload songs direct to Apple Music or Spotify. They’d share the rights with Fuller and Tedder.

"Music is such a big part of kids’ lives, we have to be in the music space. It’s a way for us to have our own incubator for musical talent but at the core is a great musical show." - Brian Robbins, President of Nickelodeon Group

Ryan’s Mystery Playdate

Also on the slate is Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, starring the 7-year-old YouTube sensation known for unboxing toys for his audience of 22 million subscribers. Unlike his YouTube videos, the Nickelodeon version has him unboxing pieces of a puzzle that reveal clues about who his playdate is.

“It’s a way for us to know that we look like what’s going on in the rest of the universe,” says Robbins, who expects the show to premiere in April.

There are also ideas in the works for a spinoff of SpongeBob SquarePants featuring the beloved characters from Bikini Bottom. Naito said they’re working with the co-executive producers of SpongeBob to develop concepts and remain true to Stephen Hillenberg’s original idea.

They’re also working on CG-animated series Paddington, featuring a younger version of the bear and his London-based adventures and Lego City. And John Cena will host a new version of the game show, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

The panel also spoke of their dedication to allowing new shows the time necessary to finding its audience instead of canceling programs that aren’t immediate hits.

“If you’re going to bring all these people on board to create something and promote it, you have to stick around to make sure it finds an audience,” DeBenedittis said. “I’m a big believer in sampling. You have to put it in multiple day parts, give it different leads-ins and lead-outs. Then you look at the data points to understand who is watching something.”

More Nick: Nickelodeon Embarks on New Direction with its Biggest, Most Wide-Ranging Content Slate Ever!

Originally published: Friday, February 22, 2019 at 11:25pm GMT.

H/T: Anime Superhero Forum /@Daikun.
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