Mar 19, 2019

Doug Cohn, SVP of Music and Talent at Nickelodeon, on what to expect from the live awards show.

It’s been a big year for Nickelodeon. Brian Robbins was named as the head of the network in October of 2018, followed by the installment of his executive creatives and the announcement of an upcoming slate that will include an All That reboot, and an unscripted musical series, and an animated spinoff of The Loud House.

But first: the Kids’ Choice Awards, which airs on March 23 at 8:00 p.m. and features host DJ Khaled. The show has been a staple of kids programming for decades, anchored in the iconic symbols of Nick’s Blimp and ever-present green slime surprises.

We chatted with Doug Cohn, SVP of music and talent at Nickelodeon, about what to expect from this year’s broadcast. Cohn, who’s been at the network for a dozen years, oversees all music for Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

Viacom: Let's talk about the KCAs. The last two years it was hosted by John Cena. What was the thinking behind asking DJ Khaled to host this year?

Doug Cohn: We like to shake things up a little bit. We like to give kids what they want, and we know the audience loves DJ Khaled. He's a three-time nominee this year. He’s someone who's really fun and who kids love.

The reality is DJ Khaled is a fun force to be reckoned with. He's everywhere, he's a mogul, and not only do kids love him, but he loves kids. I saw DJ Khaled’s son with him on a shoot—he's only two and a half so not every moment is going to be perfect and he eventually had to leave—but DJ Khaled literally FaceTimed him seven times as the day went on.

Viacom: Will he bring his son to the show?

Cohn: I think people have to tune in and see. You know it's a live show, so anything goes. You'll see … he's gonna be a little bit different from some of our past hosts.

Viacom: Can you tell us more about what that means?

Cohn: You can count on a really dramatic, big, exciting open. That's something he's really pumped about. He’s also someone who's engaged on social media in a way that is unprecedented for our hosts.

Viacom: Are you leveraging his social following in any specific way? Is that part of the reason you wanted him to host?

Cohn: I think it was definitely a factor. It’s great having a partner in that universe because we know that's where so many of our fans and their parents are. We want the world of social media to be something that really excites fans and encourages them to keep watching.

DJ Khaled is just such a great partner and allows us to connect with his entire team, and figures out ways to leverage all of his platforms to reach as many people as possible and bring them into our party.

Viacom: Is the KCAs like the Super Bowl for Nickelodeon?

Cohn: Kids’ Choice Awards has traditionally been the biggest night for kids and families. We are really trying to do things differently on this year’s show under the leadership of our new President, Brian Robbins.


Viacom: You mentioned Brian Robbins and his new team. He said recently that he wants to make music a priority for the Nick audience. How much of the risks you’re describing are related to that statement?

Cohn: There's so much music content in the pipeline and so much exciting, new, and different looks for Nickelodeon. For KCAs, one of our performers is Migos, a hip-hop group who’s also nominated for Favorite Music Group. That’s different—we haven't had a hip-hop group perform for quite a while. We’ll also have a SpongeBob SquarePants musical surprise. Totally opposite of the Migos performance, but a fresh and different take on music that will be showcased on our stage.

Viacom: When you're in the negotiations and talking to these artists, is there an awareness on their end that you guys are trying to shake things up?

Cohn: I don't think that anybody ever felt that any door was closed because we have Nick Radio, which is a 24-hour music radio station on the iHeart app, and we have Nick Music, which is a 24-hour music channel. But there was definite excitement. Some talent even moved things around in their schedules to make it work this year.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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