James Stephenson.
James Stephenson.

Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president of content and development, is shoring up management with a fellow New Yorker, James Stephenson, who will assume the newly created position of senior vice president, animation and games. Stephenson will report directly to Hicks.

Previously in charge of digital content development, Stephenson’s new gig, which will require him to move from Viacom’s New York offices to Burbank, adds animation production and development to his current responsibilities. Most recently, Stephenson oversaw Nickelodeon’s shorts program in New York, out of which grew the network’s first original webseries Welcome to the Wayne, launched on digital platforms last August and now greenlit for a 20-episode broadcast series.

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In his new role, Stephenson will be in charge of creatively guiding current series, as well as overseeing the day-to-day operations of animation development, short form, series, and games. He will also be focused on “ushering in a new production model for the studio focused on expanding Nickelodeon’s development and production capabilities.”

Hick said in a press statement that Stephenson’s ability to create content for multiple platforms will be beneficial to Nickelodeon which is taking “a more holistic approach to the development process.” He added: “His keen eye for identifying unique ideas and innate strategic mindset will be a huge asset as we continue to expand and evolve our animation pipeline.”

"Welcome to the Wayne" was a project overseen by James Stephenson.
“Welcome to the Wayne” was a project overseen by James Stephenson.

As one can tell by Stephenson’s new position, that pipeline is more internetworked than ever. Since joining Nick in 2008, his track record supervising and developing content for Nickelodeon’s digital platforms has recommended him, as has previously similar experience at MTV Networks and Atom Entertainment, owner of Flash-based dotcom boomers like AtomFilms.com and Shockwave.com.

Stephenson’s promotion comes at a critical juncture for the network, whose rating have declined in the midst of a heated three-way battle with Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, as well as relentless competition from online streamers like Netflix.

Earlier this year Nickelodeon laid off three of its top Burbank animation executives, as part of a broader overhaul at Viacom. Some of Stephenson’s new duties will in fact overlap with those of the departed execs.

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