One of Viacom’s programming heavyweights is leaving the company after 30 years.
Cyma Zarghami, who as president of the Nickelodeon Group oversaw legendary kids shows including “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Dora the Explorer,” is stepping down, according to a statement from Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon.
The company did not give a reason for her departure, though she isn’t believed to be joining another company.
Viacom’s Paramount Pictures is in the midst of making two movies based on Nickelodeon franchises, “Dora” and “Wonder Park.”
Viacom is now on an outside search for a successor. In the meantime, Sarah Levy, chief operating officer of Viacom Networks, is leading the brand on an interim basis, the statement said.
With no CBS merger in the offing, Viacom is likely having to re-examine its future as a standalone programmer. CBS was negotiating terms for a Viacom merger until last month when CBS decided to end talks and instead try to dilute the voting power of its controlling shareholder, the Redstone family’s National Amusements, which also controls Viacom.
Here’s the internal memo from Viacom chief executive Bob Bakish:
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.