Now that it has 1,200 hours of original programming to produce for distributors like Netflix and Super RTL over the next five years, DreamWorks Animation has tapped veteran Nickelodeon executive Marjorie Cohn to run its new television group.
The New York native has spent the past 26 years at Nickelodeon in various development and production roles. While there, she helped make Nickelodeon the No. 1 cable channel for 18 consecutive years. She’s leaving the company as president, content development where she oversaw both animated and live action series including “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Rugrats,” “iCarly,” “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” “The Fairly OddParents” and the “Kids’ Choice Awards.”
She will now ramp up production of DreamWorks Animation’s TV series — a significant area of growth for the toon studio. DWA-chief Jeffrey Katzenberg sees TV as both a significant revenue stream as well as a key way to grow the appeal of its brands around the world — especially as it looks to sequelize its films, launch new franchises or spin them off as consumer products, stage or arena shows and theme park attractions.
Joining Cohn is Nickelodeon Animation Studios’ Mark Taylor, who becomes the toon studio’s head of television production. He previously was senior VP and general manager at Nickelodeon and was responsible for all of the network’s in-house animation productions. He has worked with Cohn for the past 15 years.
Peter Gal, the DreamWorks Animation exec who set up “Dragons: Riders of Berk” and “Turbo F.A.S.T.” as TV series, will now move over from the film division to become head of television development full time. He previously spent three years as VP of production at 20th Century Fox, and five years at Nickelodeon, where developed “Penguins of Madagascar,” based on DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar” franchise.
DreamWorks Animation isn’t new to the TV arena.
It previously licensed “Kung Fu Panda,” “Penguins of Madagascar” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” to Nickelodeon, with the cable network producing those series. DreamWorks Animation’s first internally produced show, “Dragons of Berk,” airs on Cartoon Network.
As a result, DWA said it expects to generate $100 million in revenue from its TV portfolio this year, with about $50 million generated by Classic Media, which includes such properties as “Archie,” “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” “Fat Albert,” “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” and “The Lone Ranger,” as well as DWA-owned holiday specials, such as “Frosty the Snowman.”
Cohn’s appointment comes just after DreamWorks Animation signed multi-year deals this summer to produce more than 1,200 hours of TV for Netflix and German broadcaster Super RTL over the next five years.
Katzenberg has projected a “steady state” of $200 million annually from its TV biz by 2015, with television to generate gross profit margins of around 30%, which is close to what DWA has for its feature film business, he said.
In hiring Cohn, and building out her team, of TV execs, “it certainly answer the question of ‘How are we going to do this?'” Katzenberg told Variety.
“Having Margie join us to head our television efforts is an incredible coup for DreamWorks Animation,” said DreamWorks Animation chief operating officer Ann Daly. “She is uniquely suited with the experience, skill and creativity to immediately dive in and oversee our aggressive expansion into this space. Margie has tremendous instincts when it comes to kids programming, and we can’t wait to unleash her creative force on DreamWorks vast IP to bring exciting new content to families across the world.”
At Nickelodeon, Cohn also served as president, original programming and development, overseeing live action hits like “iCarly,” “Big Time Rush,” and the first originals for Nick at Nite. She also supervised production of events like Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards, and oversaw “Nick News with Linda Ellerbee,” produced Nick’s first original TV movies such as “Big Time Movie,” “Fairy Odd Parents: Grow up Timmy Turner,” and “Merry Christmas Drake and Josh,” and was responsible for Nick’s former TEENick programming block, that included “Zoey 101,” “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” and “Drake and Josh.”
In animation, Cohn oversaw the development and production for the animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Back at the Barnyard,” “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera” and “Tak and the Power of Juju.”
She left Nickelodeon in April.
SEE ALSO: Cohn Exits After Latest Revamp at Nick
Cohn already had worked with DreamWorks Animation in the past, developing its series “The Penguins of Madagascar.”
“DreamWorks is a company I’ve always admired,” Cohn told Variety. “It stands for quality and innovation. To start the television operation feels like an incredible opportunity. The vast amount of IP is just tremdous. It’s like a giant playground.”
In developing DWA’s TV shows, Cohn will be loooking at the toon studio’s library, as well as properties owned by Classic Media.
“We’re definitely looking at everything,” she said.
And she aims to get shows into production fairly quickly.
“When you’re a content creator, the more content you have in production the happier you are,” Cohn said. “Our focus is to make great shows. The more platforms you have the merrier. We’re goig to follow the user. Whatever the user wants we’re going to be there. We’re happy to have our shows anywhere any place.”