Cyma Zarghami Stepping Down As President Of Nickelodeon Group
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.
“Following many conversations together about next directions and future opportunities, Nickelodeon and our long-time creative partner Dan Schneider/Schneider’s Bakery have agreed to not extend the current deal,” the network said in a statement. “Since several Schneider’s Bakery projects are wrapping up, both sides agreed that this is a natural time for Nickelodeon and Schneider’s Bakery to pursue other opportunities and projects.”
The network would not discuss any specific accusations of misconduct against Schneider.
Schneider has been at the Viacom network since serving as an executive producer on “Kenan & Kel” beginning in 1996. He has since gone one to produce nearly all of the network’s live-action hits since, including “The Amanda Show,” “iCarly,” “Drake & Josh,” “All That” and “Zoey 101.”
His most recent show, “Game Shakers,” has been canceled after three seasons, but the ongoing “Henry Danger” will continue with a fifth season as planned.
“Dan and his Schneider’s Bakery team have created a string of lasting, groundbreaking hits over the years including ‘iCarly,’ ‘Drake & Josh,’ ‘Victorious,’ Kenan & Kel’ and the current number-one hit show on Nickelodeon, ‘Henry Danger,’” the network’s statement continued.
“We thank Dan and his Schneider’s Bakery producers, executives and social media team for their immeasurable contributions to Nickelodeon, and we wish them the best in their future endeavors. And Dan and Schneider’s Bakery are proud of the work they did together with Nickelodeon and will always remain big fans of the network.”
Deadline, which first reported the news of the split, linked the exit to “multiple complaints of abusive behavior against Schneider filed by members of his staff.”
When “Game Shakers” was canceled last week, Schneider had a temper “flareup,” per Deadline. He was at least partially upset over the show’s cancellation because Season 3 ends on a cliffhanger.
“For years Schneider had been under a cloud of suspicion over the treatment of some younger stars of his shows,” the publication wrote. “Among the things that have raised eyebrows are his tweeted photos of the toes of his young female stars. Additionally, there have been issues with bloated budgets and long production days on Schneider’s shows.”
Nickelodeon has officially cut ties with famed producer Dan Schneider, creator of major hits including “iCarly,” “All That,” “The Amanda Show” and “Drake & Josh,” following allegations of abusive behavior.
The network and Schneider, who’ve worked together since the late ’80s, mutually agreed not to extend a production deal with his company, Schneider’s Bakery.
“Following many conversations together about next directions and future opportunities, Nickelodeon and our long-time creative partner Dan Schneider/Schneider’s Bakery have agreed to not extend the current deal,” Nickelodeon and Schneider said in a joint statement to HuffPost. “Since several Schneider’s Bakery projects are wrapping up, both sides agreed that this is a natural time for Nickelodeon and Schneider’s Bakery to pursue other opportunities and projects.”
Neither Nickelodeon nor Schneider gave a reason for the split. Deadline reports the decision was years in the making due to “multiple complaints of abusive behavior” by members of Schneider’s staff, and “well documented temper issues.”
The report says Schneider worked “under a cloud of suspicion” because of relationships with young stars on his shows, and notes he shared photos of actresses’ toes on social media.
Over the past 20 years, Schneider has been behind some of the network’s most successful shows, launching the careers of breakout stars like Arianna Grande, Jamie Lynn Spears, Amanda Bynes and Victoria Justice.
“Dan and his Schneider’s Bakery team have created a string of lasting, groundbreaking hits over the years including ‘iCarly,’ ‘Drake & Josh,’ ’Victorious, ‘Kenan & Kel’ and the current number-one hit show on Nickelodeon, ‘Henry Danger,’ the Nickelodeon-Schneider statement continued. “We thank Dan and his Schneider’s Bakery producers, executives and social media team for their immeasurable contributions to Nickelodeon, and we wish them the best in their future endeavors. And Dan and Schneider’s Bakery are proud of the work they did together with Nickelodeon and will always remain big fans of the network.”
Schneider’s series “Game Shakers” also reportedly has been canceled. “Henry Danger,” his only remaining franchise on Nickelodeon, is expected to continue for a fifth season.
Schneider is the latest showrunner to part ways with Nickelodeon following abuse accusations. Chris Savino, creator of the hit animated series “The Loud House,” was fired after multiple sexual harassment allegations.
Yesterday Nickelodeon announced that it would be cutting ties with Dan Schneider, creator of several of its most successful programs including The Amanda Show, Zoey 101, and iCarly. “Since several Schneider’s Bakery [the production company founded by Schneider] projects are wrapping up, both sides agreed that this is a natural time for Nickelodeon and Schneider’s Bakery to pursue other opportunities and projects,” the network said in a statement.Typically, the inner workings of television networks are of interest only to folks in the industry. News of Schneider’s departure, however, immediately set Twitter and Reddit on fire. This is because for the past several years, the internet has harbored conspiracy-theory-level rumors of Schneider’s alleged abuse of his young stars, and this most recent development brought those speculations up in a new light.
It’s important to note that these rumors haven’t been mentioned in most of the stories about Schneider’s departure from Nickelodeon; one exception was Deadline, which noted that “along with all his success, for years Schneider had been under a cloud of suspicion over the treatment of some younger stars of his shows. Among the things that have raised eyebrows are his tweeted photos of the toes of his young female stars.”
Rumors are part and parcel of being in the public eye. If we were to believe all of them, that would mean Katy Perry is actually JonBenet Ramsey and Avril Lavigne was long ago replaced by a lookalike. But the persistence of the allegations concerning Schneider, and his subsequent dismissal from a powerful and lucrative position in the midst of the #MeToo movement, has made them all the more visible.
The allegations have been around since at least 2012, and first appeared on the anonymous entertainment industry blog Crazy Days and Nights. That year, one particularly incendiary and apparently now-deleted comment by user “Himmmm” (whom many have specualted is actually Robert Downey Jr.) is said to have appeared on the site, according to a 2013 post on the Game Spot forums page. The comment allegedly called out Schneider as a “monster” and the “WORST predator alive,” and noted that “A LOT of settlements get paid out of Viacoms accounts” (Viacom is Nickelodeon’s parent company). The comment went on to mention the unsubstantiated rumor that Schneider is the father of former Zoey 101 star Jamie Lynn Spears’s child, who was born in 2007.
In 2013, similar rumors about Schneider popped up on longtime internet forum “The Data Lounge,” where one user wrote, “Schneider is one of the biggest pedos in the biz, but as long as he can take a pretty young girl and turn her into a money making machine, he’ll always have a job.” On Reddit that same year, one user alleged that Schneider paid them $100 to tickle their feetwhile they worked as an extra on The Amanda Show. In 2014, Crazy Days and Nights noted in a blind item that Schneider has a “reputation for being very hands on with his actors and actresses.” It also stated that Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy, two actors who found fame on Schneider’s shows, boycotted that year’s Teen Choice Awards at which the producer was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Last year, just before The New York Times and the New Yorker exposed Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of abuse, the rumors once again blew up on Reddit and other online forums. Shortly thereafter, a Twitter user named @deludedkiss published a lengthy thread featuring screenshots and clips allegedly illustrating Schneider’s supposed incorporation of his alleged foot fetish and sexualization of young people into his shows.
These are only some of the bigger points in a long, ongoing, unsubstantiated, and partially deleted online discussion about someone who has played a part in the childhoods of millions of American children. These discussions were not fomented in the pages of a well-regarded magazine but rather in the most faceless parts of the internet, where people can hide behind usernames and avatars. It remains to be seen if the rumors will ever be confirmed or denied, but it feels strange not to acknowledge them at this moment.