Cabler promotes Hicks to content prexy, revamps exec structure

Brown Johnson, a mainstay at Nickelodeon for nearly a quarter century, has ankled the cabler, which has promoted chief creative officer Russell Hicks to president of content development and production as part of a restructuring of the executive staff.

Nick’s status as the king of kids TV has suffered of late, with top rival Disney making significant gains. The most recent evidence came in an early August earnings report from parent company Viacom, which stated that declining ratings of networks including Nick had led to a year-to-year drop of 7% in domestic ad revenue.

Johnson, who joined Nick in the 1980s and served as animation prexy since 2008, was said to be pursuing her own projects. Her leadership was credited with helping build Nickelodeon’s memorable preschool programming, including “Blue’s Clues” and “Dora the Explorer.”

“Brown’s contributions to Nickelodeon are many, including being the key architect behind our preschool leadership,” said Nick Group prexy Cyma Zarghami. “She leaves an indelible impact on generations of kids for which we will always be incredibly grateful.”

Hicks, who has been with Nick for 14 years, will report to Zarghami as he takes control of a newly constructed live-action and animation development and production team for all Nick content platforms. Among those reporting to Hicks will be Marjorie Cohn (in a new role as Nick content development prexy) and Paula Kaplan (exec veep of current series).

The newly created position centralizes West Coast leadership of Nick’s content teams as it heads into what the cabler said is its largest and most diverse development slate.

“Russell has been one of the driving forces behind the Nickelodeon brand,” said Zarghami. “As we continue our ambitious evolution of Nickelodeon, Russell will ensure that our rich and diversified development slate, as well as our new and established producing partners, will all serve our creative vision for the network and deliver for our audiences. As the new development season begins, this is the perfect moment for Russell to take the helm.”

Also reporting to Hicks will be exec veep of preschool development and production Teri Weiss, exec veep of Nick Prods. Alison Dexter, senior veep of current series animation Rich Magallanes and senior veep and general manager of Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick channels Keith Dawkins.

Nickelodeon’s development slate includes more than a dozen new live-action, animation and TV movie projects, including spinoffs from retiring series “iCarly” and “Victorious” as well another show starring “iCarly” vet Jerry Trainor. Also on tap are CG-animated series “Monsters vs. Aliens,” the return of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in September and the winter launch of Scott Baio family comedy “See Dad Run” on Nick at Nite.

As chief creative officer, Hicks oversaw Nick’s creative, on-air promotions, consumer products, brand and advertising divisions, leading the product development and creative positioning of Nickelodeon’s brands and properties. Previously, he was Cartoon Network/Turner marketing veep for Warner Bros. In the early days of a career that began as an animator, he worked on Worlds of Wonder talking teddy bear Teddy Ruxpin.

When she was promoted to her most recent position in 2008, Johnson’s creative leadership and brand strategy were saluted for making Nick Jr. the No. 1 brand among preschoolers and for creating multiple business for Nick itself. She arrived at Nick in 1988, near the end of the network’s first decade of existence.

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