The interview contains plenty of details about the content strategy at Nickelodeon and parent company ViacomCBS, which recently relaunched its streaming platform CBS All Access as Paramount+. Robbins has greenlight power at the streamer, where he is reimagining some of the company’s best-known franchises through spin-offs and reboots. Animation is central to this strategy: Robbins says Nick’s animation studio hired 500 people during the pandemic.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the executive says that “Nick had lost its way for a while.” He adds, “Ramsey [Naito, president of Nickelodeon Animation] and I have worked hard along with all the other executives to rebuild the culture and earn the trust back of the creative community.”
Robbins doesn’t elaborate, but later he discusses the departure of prolific Nick creator Dan Schneider in 2018. Schneider left amid reports of abusive and other inappropriate behavior. Robbins, who joined after Schneider left, declines “to speculate on rumors.” He says the network has no plans to work again with Schneider.
- Licensing: ViacomCBS has forged partnerships with the likes of Netflix even as it has stepped up its own streaming business. But the company is “focused on Nickelodeon and Paramount+ for our content,” says Robbins. He adds that it may still license library content to third parties “on a non-exclusive basis or a co-exclusive basis.”
- Features: ViacomCBS remains committed to both theatrical and streaming releases for films. Robbins doesn’t give a precise ratio, but names a few theatrical releases in the pipeline, such as the Paw Patrol spin-off. He adds that the company is “probably going to make at least six to ten films for Paramount+ next year,” including kids’ works from Nickelodeon.
- Live-action adaptations: The Loud House is getting a live-action Christmas movie this year, and a hybrid spin-off series based on The Fairly Oddparents is coming to Paramount+. For now, no other live-action versions of animated favorites seem to be on the cards: “You can’t do it a hundred times but that’s it for right now,” says Robbins.
- Overall deals: These major pacts between studios and creators are becoming increasingly common in the animation world, and Nickelodeon plans to strike more of them. Robbins cites its recent deal with the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender as an example. “It’s not just about money anymore,” he says. “Creators want to know that there’s a commitment to quality and culture.”
- Diversity: It makes “business sense” to appeal to the full population, says Robbins, and that means creating diverse content. That applies equally to animation and “the casting that we have throughout all of our shows.”
As president and CEO of Nickelodeon, Brian Robbins has spent three years building the brand and reorienting it toward streaming. It has been a tall order, as he admits.