Taran Swan at Nickelodeon Latin America Case Study

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Taran Swan at Nickelodeon Latin America (A) Case Study

Background and Scope

In 1979, Nickelodeon, “a cable channel for kids 2-11 years old, was launched in the United States”. Nickelodeon provided a wide-range of programming which including “live-action, comedy, drama, animation, music and sports and game shows”. By 1995, Nickelodeon was the highest rated basic cable network and international expansion was very realistic and just getting started. To successfully transition internationally Nickelodeon allowed the channel to have its own “on-air identity and slogan” for each endeavor. Nickelodeon used an “International Swat Team” to launch the network into other countries and once established turned it over for local personnel to operate.

By 1998, Nickelodeon had already expanded and operating on 30 countries. However, back in 1993, Ms. Taran Swan, then Director of Business Development for Nickelodeon, initially entertained the opportunity to expand in Latin America. Latin American TV did not cater to children. Due to the economic conditions programs were outdated and stagnant. This would be an opportunity for Nickelodeon to introduce programs that “gave kids a voice” while still embracing their culture. The steps required to meet this goal would not be easy. Swan recognized the task at hand and the need to “prove her business plan by securing minimum distribution” (at least 2 million households). Swan believed in a “big bets” strategy and keeping the “bottom line” at the forefront of her thought process.

This paper will present obstacles that Swan and her team had to deal with, not just in selling the channel, attracting advertisers but also managing each other. Swan’s style and dedication allowed her to hand-pick her team to ensure deadlines were met and meeting expectations of the network. Swan was known for her “smart and strategic business directives”. In addition issues addressing personal work/life balance, succession/transition plans will be explored. Finally, recommendations not only for Swan but for Nickelodeon as a company will be presented to attempt to mitigate issues that arose while expanding Nickelodeon internationally in Latin America. Swan being so involved in every step from conception to implementation would prove to be more challenging than she anticipated both in personal and professional management ways.

Current Situation

At the end of the second year of operations at Nickelodeon Latin America (NLA), Swan prepared for a Town Hall with MTV. She prepared a speech in which she wanted to promote the advancements that NLA had realized for the previous year. Days before the Town Hall, however, Swan was informed by her doctor that she was unable to continue traveling for work as her four month pregnancy showed signs of high risk. Though Swan planned to leave after the Town Hall, she was hospitalized the day of the meeting.

As she left to go back home, she considered the many challenges that still lay ahead of her. After leading the NLA project from research to launch, there remained additional tasks that needed to be completed before the project could be turned over to local management. NLA was on the verge of two crucially important deals. The first deal was with Argentina’s largest provider, Cablevision/TCI, which would add 1.5 million subscribers. A second deal would give them access to the Brazilian marketplace through a Portuguese feed. These issues were exacerbated by currency volatility, marketing problems and advertising issues. Swan had a significant hand in resolving each of these issues.

Now Swan is faced with a decision on what to do about continuing operations during her leave. Her experience showed that her team needed consistent direction but that they were able to communicate with her remotely. Thus, she considered how she may continue to lead the project from her home. Another option she faced was installing an interim manager who would be...
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