When Nickelodeon hired former VH1 and Atlantic Records exec Doug Cohn to integrate music into the Nick brand, SpongeBob SquarePants wasn’t the only one crooning, “It’s the best day ever!” That’s because all the stars in the Nick family now have the potential to add “recording artist” to their resumes.
A four-year deal with Sony enables the cabler to develop, produce and finance television and music projects. The move came after Disney spiked past Nick as the top kids channel with tuners and series such as “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana.”
Now with Cohn one year into the gig as Nick’s first senior VP of music marketing and talent, he’s seen two Naked Brothers Band album launches, kept the Backyardigans’ “Born to Play” CD on the top 10 kids music charts for nine months, grabbed 260,000 downloads for the “iCarly” theme song, managed three successful tours and developed a slate of music-centric skeins including one starring “Zoey 101’s” Victoria Justice, a show about a boy band, and a “Drake and Josh” Christmas movie.
Everything clicked for Cohn in June, when he saw the results of leveraging Nick’s synergy with Viacom and MTV Networks. “When the ‘iCarly’ soundtrack debuted at No. 1, it was a result of our plan all coming together,” he says, citing appearances on the “Today” show and MTV’s “TRL,” a video “that played practically around the clock,” in-store appearances and a big TV movie tie-in. The album even helped launch Leon Thomas III, another up-and-coming young Nickelodeon artist, by featuring his single “I Like That Girl.”
Nick may have joined the music game later than its competition, but Cohn sees plenty of room for the brand to establish itself as a major player. “I don’t mind that people are into Jonas Brothers and ‘American Idol,'” he says. “That means there is an appetite for kids’ music, which is great for us.”
Recent breakthrough: “Miranda Cosgrove. The ‘iCarly’ soundtrack debuted at No. 1 on the kids chart, so it’s the start of a very exciting career for Miranda.”
Role model: “Justin Timberlake. He went from being this kid in a boy band, and now he has the respect from all in the music industry, then you turn around and he has the most downloaded skit from ‘SNL,’ then he’s hosting the ESPYs, then (he’s in) movies.”
What’s next: “Spectacular!” could deliver a “High School Musical”-sized franchise for Nick, and more shows are in the hopper. “Part of our deal with Sony is a TV co-production deal … to take our programming and add music. Soon we’ll add a touring component.”