Management changes continue at Nickelodeon; Paula Kaplan leaving

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Management changes continue at Nickelodeon as another high-level executive announced that she was leaving the children’s channel — her home for nearly 20 years.

Paula Kaplan, who serves as executive vice president of current TV series, told her team on Thursday that she would be leaving the network, according to people familiar with the matter.

Kaplan previously was a West Coast general manager and head of talent and casting for many of Nickelodeon’s businesses.


She did not return a call left at her office Thursday afternoon.

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Kaplan long has been a creative force within the children’s network, forming the company’s Los Angeles talent department in 1996. Kaplan also helped build the “Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards” into a marquee event.

Even First Lady Michelle Obama attended the “Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards” nearly two years ago with daughters Malia and Sasha. The First Family got splattered with green slime intended for Justin Bieber.

“Sliming” people with green goo typically is the highlight of the children’s awards show.

Nickelodeon has been retooling its operations and mounting a comeback from a perilious ratings plunge nearly two years ago, which saw its ratings plummet nearly 30%.

The channel, owned by media company Viacom Inc., has been trying to develop a new generation of hits.

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Ratings for the channel have improved in recent quarters, although the Disney Channel ended 2013 as the top children’s network for a second year among viewers aged 2 to 11.

In August 2012, Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami undertook a major restructuring, entrusting power to a loyal lieutenant, Russell Hicks, who became the top creative officer.

During the last year, Hicks, who serves as president of Nickelodeon content, development and production, has become more deeply involved in West Coast operations. Hicks, who grew up in Los Angeles and Orange counties, has rearranged operations, promoting his own group of executives.

Hicks, who has worked at Nickelodeon for about 15 years, now spends most of his time at Nickelodeon’s animation studio in Burbank and network offices in Santa Monica — rather than the New York headquarters.

The August 2012 shakeup forced out Nickelodeon’s animation chief Brown Johnson, the executive who was most responsible for creating the network’s cartoon sensation “Dora the Explorer.”

Then, in August 2013, programming development chief Margie Cohn departed and soon accepted a post as head of television for DreamWorks Animation. Cohn had been with Nickelodeon since its earliest days, helping shepherd “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “iCarly” and “Rugrats” onto the screen.


Also last year, Alison Dexter, the Los Angeles-based executive vice president of production, resigned.

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Twitter: @MegJamesLAT