THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
In the 26 years she's been at Nickelodeon (no mean feat in an industry known for its job-hopping), Zarghami, 48, not only has risen through the ranks from scheduling clerk to president (assuming the title in 2006), she's seen a whole generation of Nick viewers grow up. "It's an interesting time in our business because we have now a relationship with parents that we didn't have when we first started," Zarghami says, citing a Nielsen poll that suggests about 25 percent of mothers today watched Nick when they were kids.
Zarghami, who manages Nick's $20 billion business, the largest in parent Viacom's portfolio, saw that as a lucrative opportunity. In November, she announced a new programming block, NickMom, launching at the end of 2012 (a companion website is already live). The goal is to reach busy moms, 40 and under, in the hours between 9 p.m.-1 a.m.
With more than 30 NickMom original programming projects in development, it's a venture that Zarghami, herself a mom of three boys, feels strongly about. "A lot of women watch Nick at Nite as well as preschool content with their kids, and many are those whom advertisers like to target," Zarghami says. "There's a unique sensibility and a very large automatic community among mothers that is different than dads -- not better or worse, just different."
These days, Viacom is at loggerheads with Nielsen over Nick's precipitous ratings drop; the network has tumbled double-digits since September and is on track to be bested this year by Disney Channel among kids 6-11, though Nick will finish the year as the top-rated network among kids 2-11 for the 17th year. Viacom blames Nielsen's new ratings sample. The measurement company stands by its data. Still, Zarghami can tick off many successes: the relaunching of Nick Jr. and TeenNick; partnering with Sony Music to create musical content shows such as Victorious; and September's Worldwide Day of Play in Washington in partnership with the White House.
Today, Nickelodeon is the world's most widely distributed kids' network, with 50 channels reaching more than 350 million people in 25 languages. Though she only half-jokingly says there is "absolutely no time" for fun, the New York-based Zarghami relishes time with her sons and stay-at-home dad husband.
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