UPDATED with Bob Bakish’s memos: The last veteran top Viacom executive from the company’s previous regime, Cyma Zarghami, is stepping down as president of Nickelodeon Group after more than 30 years with the network. While Viacom conducts a search for a successor to lead Nickelodeon, Viacom Media Networks COO Sarah Levy will lead the network on an interim basis.
Zarghami’s exit comes only a few days after the departure of Debra Lee, who stepped down from her position as chairman and CEO of BET Networks after three decades. All Viacom cable networks have undergone leadership changes as part of reorganizations implemented by Bob Bakish since he became Viacom president and CEO in December 2016. Under the realignment, the company focused on six “flagship” brands, which include Nickelodeon as well as BET.
“Over the course of her career, Cyma has played an integral role in growing Nickelodeon into the dominant force in kids’ entertainment,” Bakish said in a memo to staff. “Her instincts for creating content and experiences that kids love have been vital to the brand’s success around the world. Looking to the future, we are excited to build on this strong foundation as we continue to evolve the business and connect with young audiences in new and innovative ways. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Cyma for her leadership and wish her every success.”
During the transition, Levy will work with Nickelodeon’s existing leadership team to manage the brand’s operations. Their focus will be to launch Nickelodeon’s largest-ever content pipeline of more than 800 new episodes and accelerate the brand’s push into new and next-generation viewing platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products.
Zarghami joined Nickelodeon in 1985 and was named its president in 2006. Under her leadership, Nickelodeon has become a leading global brand for kids, spanning linear and multiplatform programming, film, live experiences and consumer products.
Here are Bakish’s internal memos to the Nickelodeon and Viacom staffs:
We are announcing today that Cyma Zarghami is stepping down from her role as President of Nickelodeon Group, and I wanted to let all of you know first, before I notify the rest of the company.
I don’t have to tell any of you how much Cyma has meant to Nickelodeon, and how her leadership has helped lead the brand to success after success over the course of her incredible four decades at the company. She is a true pioneer, championing Nick’s growth from a niche cable channel early on to the groundbreaking global powerhouse it is today.
It is never easy to say goodbye, but her legacy here is long, and she leaves behind an incredible team of smart, dedicated people who are a model of creativity and collaboration across the industry. I have full confidence in all of you that the Nickelodeon brand will continue to grow and thrive as we provide kids and families with the very best entertainment content available anywhere.
We are going to conduct a comprehensive search process for Cyma’s successor, and on an interim basis, Sarah Levy will be leading Nickelodeon in addition to her responsibilities as COO of Viacom Media Networks. Many of you know Sarah from her own long tenure at Nick, and you will be hearing more from her soon.
Please join me in thanking Cyma for her many contributions to Nickelodeon and to Viacom and wishing her every success in the future. I also want to thank you all for everything you do each day to further evolve and grow this great brand. I’m looking forward to working together to shape Nickelodeon’s exciting next chapter.
I want to let you all know that Cyma Zarghami is stepping down from her role as President of Nickelodeon Group.
Over the course of more than 30 years, Cyma has played an integral role in growing Nickelodeon into the dominant force in kids’ entertainment. Those of you who have worked alongside her know that her passion for Nickelodeon is second to none, and her instincts for creating content and experiences kids love have been vital to the brand’s success around the world.
Having risen through the ranks beginning in 1985, Cyma’s career spans Nickelodeon’s explosive growth and expansive influence as both a brand and a giant, successful business, guiding it into new areas beyond its unparalleled TV leadership, like feature films, consumer products, recreation, digital and beyond. From the single cable channel Nick once was, to the multiplatform entity it is today, Cyma’s contributions have been immeasurable, and her success has stemmed from her devotion to Nickelodeon’s mission to make the world a more playful place for kids everywhere.
While we conduct a comprehensive search process for Cyma’s successor, Sarah Levy will lead the brand on an interim basis as it begins its next chapter, in addition to her responsibilities as COO of Viacom Media Networks. Sarah previously spent nearly 20 years at Nickelodeon, including a decade as its Chief Operating Officer, and knows the Nickelodeon brand inside and out. She also brings valuable experience managing operations across our entire portfolio, and couldn’t be better positioned to offer her support and guidance.
As we all know, this transition comes during a moment of immense change and opportunity across our industry, particularly within kids’ entertainment. Nickelodeon was the first truly flagship brand in the house – spanning TV, digital, film and real world experiences – and it continues to evolve and grow as quickly as our audiences do, too.
I’m proud to say that Nickelodeon continues to make big, important moves to lead in this new landscape – from its pipeline of 800 new episodes this year (the brand’s largest ever), to the launch of Noggin on Amazon Channels, and SlimeFest’s upcoming and long-awaited U.S. debut in Chicago. Nickelodeon will also play a key role in our refreshed 2019 Paramount film slate with its co-branded films, Wonder Park and Dora the Explorer. And I’m confident that Sarah and the outstanding team at Nickelodeon will continue to accelerate the brand’s exciting push into new and next-generation viewing platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products.
Please join me in thanking Cyma for her many contributions to Nickelodeon and wishing her every success in the future.