Viacom named producer Brian Robbins as the new head of its Nickelodeon, its largest operation, a bid to steady the kid-focused cable channel even as it has been struggling with declining ratings and shifts in viewing habits among its target demographic.
Robbins, the founder of Awesomeness TV, has most recently been based at Viacom’s Paramount Pictures as head of its Paramount Players genre pic division.
“Brian is a creative powerhouse who has spent his career on the frontlines of our industry, anticipating and driving changes in television, film and digital media,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. “With his unmatched credentials in kids’ entertainment and his firsthand knowledge of Nickelodeon, I have asked Brian to drive the innovation and transformation that will ensure the brand remains the dominant force with young audiences.”
Robbins is the first new executive to lead Nickelodeon in years. He replaces Cyma Zarghami, who was named president of the flagship network in 2004 and then given oversight of a Viacom’s broader suite of networks aimed at kids and families in 2006. She resigned in June, after Viacom gave Sarah Levy, chief operating officer of its entertainment networks, supervision over some of Nickelodeon’s business functions, such as research and production management.
Viacom said Robbins will manage the creative and business operations at Nickelodeon and work to make the home of properties such as “Paw Patrol,” “Henry Danger” and “Dora the Explorer” more relevant to younger audiences, who have grown increasingly accustomed to getting their favorite programs on demand or via streaming services. Viacom said Robbins would accelerate a Nickelodeon “push into next-generation platforms and feature film.” Under Bakish, Viacom has placed new emphasis on developing intellectual property into a range of formats. Robbins is expected to remain involved in the development, production and marketing of all Nickelodeon co-branded films with Paramount Players.
Viacom said it would start “a comprehensive search for a successor” to lead Paramount Players. In the interim, Wyck Godfrey, president of Paramount Pictures’ Motion Picture Group, will oversee day-to-day operations, with support from Robbins during a transition period.
Prior to leading Paramount Players, Robbins co-founded Awesomeness, originally a YouTube channel, in 2012 and served as its CEO. Robbins also co-founded the production company Tollins/Robbins Productions and was the founder and president of Varsity Pictures.
He has much knowledge of all things Nickelodeon, having been involved in the production of network mainstays like “Kenan and Kel” and “All That.” He has also worked on the production of Disney Channel series such as “Sonny with a Chance” and “So Random,” as well as CW series like “Smallville” and :”one Tree Hill.” His film credits include Disney’s “Wild Hogs,” DreamWorks’ “Norbit” Sony Pictures’ “Radio.”
And he brings a unique perspective to the job. Robbins started his career in the entertainment business as an actor, having a role in the sitcom “Head of the Class.”