Viacom Names Robbins President of Nickelodeon

Viacom named Brian Robbins as president of Nickelodeon, the leader in the ratings challenged kids TV field.

Robins had been with Viacom as president of Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Players division. He will remain involved in the development, production and marketing of Nickelodeon co-branded films with Paramount Players, including current projects featuring Dora the Explorer and the Rugrats.

He replaces long-time Nickelodeon head Cyma Zarghami, who stepped down in June. Viacom Media Networks COO Sarah Levy ran Nickelodeon on an interim basis.

Related: Viacom Launches OTT NickSplat Channel Via AT&T’s VRV Platform

Nickelodeon and other kids networks have been bucking the tide of young viewers spending more time on mobile devices with YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram than with TV.

Ratings for kids programming has been falling and Nickelodeon has tried to fight back by increasing the amount of original programming on the network. It has also upped its digital programming output and this summer held a live event, Slimefest, in Chicago. 

Paramount is beginning a search for a successor to run Paramount Players. In the interim, Wyck Godfrey, president of Paramount Pictures Motion Pictures Group, will oversee day-to-day operations at Paramount Players.

“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.”

Before Paramount Players, Robbins was a co-founder of Awesomeness and served as Chief Executive Officer. He also co-founded Tollins/Robbins Productions and was the Founder and President of Varsity Pictures.

He executive produced numerous television hits for teens and young audiences, including the popular Nickelodeon series Kenan and Kel and All That.

Robbins also executive produced Blue Mountain State for Spike TV (now Paramount Network) and produced and/or directed the Paramount films Varsity Blues, Coach Carter and Hardball. His other credits include the television series Smallville and One Tree Hill for CW, and Disney Channel’s Sonny with a Chance and So Random. His film credits include Disney’s Wild Hogs and The Shaggy Dog; DreamWorks’ Norbit and A Thousand Words; and Sony Pictures’ Radio.

“Nickelodeon is one of the entertainment industry’s most vibrant and groundbreaking brands, with iconic properties, a deep culture of creativity and invention, and an incredibly talented team of kids’ entertainment professionals," Robbins said. "I’m thrilled to return to Nickelodeon and draw on its many strengths – including its rich library and rapidly growing studio production business – to deliver must-see content to kids on every platform around the world. During this time of upheaval in big media, I can’t wait to disrupt the disrupters.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.