Feature > Interview > INTERVIEW WITH NICKELODEON PRESIDENT CYMA ZARGHAMI BY SHABNAM REZAEI
From TV to the future of Digital Children's Entertainment
Being in children's entertainment, I was particularly excited
to meet Cyma Zarghami, President of Nickelodeon and
MTVN Kids and Family Group which also includes Nick at Nite, Nick Movies, Nick Jr. and TeenNick.
Being part of a $20 billion conglomerate Viacom is not easy yet the mother of
three runs the behemoth networks of Nickelodeon with integrity, intelligence
and passion. The executive behind such hits as Dora the Explorer, Spongebob
Squarepants and iCarly, she has
an incredible story of coming up through the ranks, having started as a
scheduling assistant in 1985.
Here are some excerpts from
Rezaei: Tell us a little about your background.
My mom is Scottish and my father is Iranian. They met in Scotland where my dad attended
medical school and she was a nurse. They moved back and forth between Scotland
and Iran and I was born in Abadan. Shortly thereafter, we moved again,
first to Canada and finally to New Jersey. I was in the 3rd grade. I
haven’t spent much time in Iran and 1976 was probably the last time we were
there. We have family in Shiraz and my dad goes back and forth as often as he
can. We feel very lucky though to have all of our family around and close to us
Rezaei: Did you watch a lot of cartoons growing up?
I don’t remember that much actually. Definitely shows like the Brady Bunch, The
Partridge Family, that sort of thing.
Rezaei: What did you study in college and how did
you end up at Nickelodeon?
I went to the University of Vermont and I was an English major. I thought I was
gonna be a teacher, then a writer, then I just needed a job so I moved to New
York and became an assistant here (Nickelodeon).
I was lucky and stumbled into it. When I first came to
Nickelodeon it was very small. When you looking for your place in the world you
either have a passion for something or you find people that you love or a
product that you love. I found people and product that were fantastic. I have
been here for 24 years.
Shabnam Rezaei: What advice do you have for a budding artist or filmmaker?
Cyma Zarghami: Passion goes a long way
so knock on every door until you get someone to open the door. Any way in is a
fine way, so being an assistant for example, is not a bad way in. Being a Production assistant or whatever is the right idea. Persevere.
Shabnam Rezaei: What trends do you see in the kids’ space?
In general, in the kids’ space, we tend to follow trends that adults follow as
well. When game shows were big, at the time of Jeopardy and Family Feud,
we created Double Dare. Same is true
in the online world. Social networking is big with sites like facebook so the
kids’ version of that is casual gaming. The millennial generation is happier.
They like their parents more than the previous generation. I think this is
because you often have two working parents or a single parent and kids like
spending time with their parents. They are also both materialistic and
altruistic so they want to do good but they are mostly just happy and that
means their entertainment will be different than the past. Cynicism is out and
optimism is in. That’s why SpongeBob does so well.
Rezaei: Did Digital kill the TV star?
No. People spend the same amount of time watching TV but the rest of their time
has changed to surfing, playing games, and IM’ing with friends. The more we can
connect online, the more successful we can be as a brand. TV will not be
replaced. Kids will always love fantasy, escapism, characters they can relate
to and good storytelling. It will eventually become mobile.
Rezaei: What about the revenue impact if it goes all
Our business is built on advertising revenues, affiliate fees with cable operators,
consumer products and the digital stream, so have multiple streams. The balance
of those will shift over time. That’s everybody challenge. How do we maintain
or replace the TV ad part.
Rezaei: Desert Island. Three things. What will you
I’d have to take four. I have 3 sons and a husband so that would be it.
For more information on Nickelodeon programming, please visit www.nick.com.
Full Name: Cyma Zarghami
Favorite City: New York
Favorite Dish: A good New York Strip Steak
Favorite Drink: Californian White Wine
Currently Reading: No time to read (other than my