Dometi Pongo: What's the role of kids and family content at Paramount+?
Brian Robbins: Streaming has become the focus of all media companies and it’s no different here at ViacomCBS. Fortunately for us and Paramount+, we have a brand in Nickelodeon that has been loved by kids and families for over two decades now. The brand is loved because it has a treasure trove of tremendous IP and big franchises that are really important in kids' lives. The idea is to leverage that IP and those franchises to drive consumption in Paramount+ for kids and families.
DP: How does streaming play into the evolution of that Nickelodeon?
BR: It’s really important. It's no shock that consumption has changed and viewing habits have changed for everybody—maybe even more so for kids. I have a 7-year-old daughter, streaming is the way she consumes content and it's not necessarily on the big screen either. It could be on a phone and it's certainly on a tablet. We want our brand and our content to be ubiquitous. Today, that means we need to be on all platforms. Linear is still our biggest reach vehicle today. I assume five years from now, it'll be very different and streaming will probably be the primary way that our consumer consumes our content. Kids and family content content is driving an enormous amount of consumption on [Paramount+].
DP: What is some of the top performing kids and family content on the platform?
BR: We've just launched a massive hit in iCarly—and we strategically licensed the old iCarly just one or two seasons to other streaming services, and then we put the whole iCarly library on Paramount+. So by the time the new iCarly was about to come, there had been this new interest, demand, and love for iCarly. With all that buzz, the new show just took off like a rocket ship.
DP: Can you talk about the decision to release PAW Patrol: The Movie on Paramount and in theaters simultaneously?
BR: Unfortunately, we're still living in this Covid world and theaters are not yet running at full capacity. I don't think people are running out to the movie theater and especially when it comes to kids. It just felt like we needed to give the consumer a choice. If you want to see the movie in a movie theater and have that experience, you're going to be able to get that. Probably most of the consumers and kids are going to watch this movie at home and that's a good thing for Paramount+ and a good thing for all of us at ViacomCBS, because we have a killer movie that is really playing great.
DP: PAW Patrol is a powerhouse franchise across linear, streaming, live events, and consumer products. What is it about that franchise that makes it so unique?
BR: It's the pups—the pups are cool. They all have these really fun, different, and diverse characters. They have super cool vehicles that do crazy things that allow kids to just use their imagination. Underneath it, there's also a social and emotional learning element as well. Parents and kids both dig it. It's a great franchise and we have a great partnership with Spin Master.
DP: It's the #1 show for preschoolers — when you hear a stat like that, how does it make you feel about being able to provide something that young children are going to grow up with?
BR: Well, the first thing I think about is ‘how do we stay #1?’ We have a big responsibility at Nickelodeon that is different from most other media brands. We really do have a responsibility to not only entertain, but to educate and hopefully grow really smart, well-rounded changemakers. That's the way I look at it. If we could develop the next generation of changemakers and kids that are really aware and socially conscious, that's an important part of what we do. That's why we brought back Nick News this year. And we've done a lot of specials over the course of the last year in this unprecedented, crazy time that we've been living in. We're really proud of the work that we do in that area and that work will continue to do.
DP: You have an ambitious film slate across theatrical and streaming, can you talk a little bit about the kids and family movie strategy on Paramount+ and how that fits into ViacomCBS’ overall movie strategy?
BR: In my previous role before I came to Nick, I was running Paramount Players at Paramount Pictures. My role there was to really make branded films for Paramount Pictures from the Viacom brands. And Nickelodeon was the top priority and the first film that came out of that was our Dora the Explorer movie. But now that I'm here, I'm just taking that torch with me. We're really excited about the slate we've built, starting with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reinvention that's being produced by Seth Rogen. I saw a first animation of the movie last week and it's going to be amazing. It's hysterical. Quality matters more than ever now. We have to deliver quality and we're really excited about Turtles as a franchise in general. And one of the other big projects that we're working on, on the theatrical front is Avatar. We signed a deal to bring the original creators of Avatar back into the studios. They started Avatar Studios, and they're well on their way in development on a series of CG films and a new Avatar series. The other area that is under our group that I'm really excited about on the film front is the young adult space. In my former life, I was the founder and CEO of Awesomeness TV, where we were responsible for films like To All the Boys I Loved Before, a franchise on Netflix, and The Perfect Date. We have a long history of making really great YA content and we're going to make a handful of those films for Paramount+ that start hitting in 2022. Another film we’re working on is in collaboration with LeBron James and his production company, SpringHill, called Fantasy Football.
DP: You talked about bringing the creators of Avatar back for more projects — how is your team attracting talent?
BR: We really pride ourselves in making sure that Nick is a place people want to work, that creative people want to work, especially in the animation studio. Ramsay Naito, who is the president of Nick Animation, she's just somebody that is really loved in the animation community and people actually really love Nick. They have something in their heart where they really do want to work here on the animation side or on the live-action side for this brand. People grew up on certain shows. They have fond memories of the brand and they want to do business with us.