Actor/producer Nick Cannon wears a number of hats in the television business. He stars in BET’s comedy series Real Husbands of Hollywood; he hosts NBC’s variety series America’s Got Talent; he produces MTV2’s improv comedy show Wild N’ Out; and he serves as honorary chairman of Nickelodeon’s TeenNick cable network targeted to young adults 14 to 17, as well as the producer of its annual TeenNick HALO Awards, which honor teens for their community service.
In a recent Showtime standup comedy special, F#ck Nick Cannon, he responded to detractors and discussed his personal life, including his marriage to songstress Mariah Carey. Oh, and he’s resurrecting one of television’s most-revered music franchises, Soul Train, in 2014. The 33-year-old, who got his TV start on Nickelodeon’s sketch comedy series All That, chatted with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead ahead of the Nov. 17 TeenNick HALOAwards telecast, which drew about 960,000 viewers on a live-plus-same-day basis.
MCN: You have your hand in so many different projects. How do you keep up your crazy, busy pace and how important is it for you and your brand to be involved in so many things across television?
Nick Cannon: It all seems like one task to me, even though it’s a bunch of different things put together. It’s just the way I was built. I always have to be multi-tasking and to have a bunch of things going on to be able to focus better. I probably would do this no matter what field of work I was in. Also, having a good team around you also helps more than anything.
MCN: The TeenNick HALO Awards is now in its fifth year. How would you characterize the franchise’s growth?
NC: It started off as an idea where I wanted to provide an opportunity to shine a light on the good things that young people were doing in their communities and using the power of corporation and celebrity to focus on the things that really matter the most. These teenagers are really changing the world, so from there it’s turned into this huge show. This year is the first year we’re airing live, and the scholarships allow the teenager to continue their mission — we call it the “halo effect,” because its gets bigger and bigger and spreads out. We’re excited about how the community comes together and represents for the young people.
MCN: As chairman of TeenNick, what are your plans for the network going forward?
NC: We’re still going forward and we’ve got a lot of new, exciting stuff that we’re developing now for 2014. We’re all about standing for something as a brand and I think our brand stands for youth empowerment. I think we’re the only ones making that statement in the cable community. So when you think about programming that you can get elsewhere we’re kind of very specific on what we offer the community.
MCN: Besides the TeenNick HALO Awards, is there a particular show or franchise that you’re working on that you’re really excited about?
NC: I’m excited right now because I’m in my Soul Train office and looking forward to bringing that back at the top of the year, so that’s really exciting.
MCN: What was it about Soul Train that was attractive to you?
NC: It’s just one of those brands that means so much to our culture that’s missing on television right now. At the same time it’s near a dear to my heart because when I was 15 years old I was actually a Soul Train dancer, so to be able to bring that franchise back full circle is something that’s exciting. NBC is going to carry it, but for our second run we have our cable partners at Viacom that are just as important to the advertisers.
MCN: Are there any other projects that you want to work on?
NC: I directed and produced my first film for Lionsgate that will be coming out pretty soon, and I’m already looking forward to the next one after that.
MCN: When you do finally have some downtime, what’s on your DVR?
NC: I like [TV One’s] Unsung — I’m a big fan of that. I like [HBO’s] Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound & Down — those types of shows.
MCN: As a producer/distributor, is this the best time to be a content provider given all the platforms where you can showcase your projects?
NC: Just being a content provider right now is important, because there are so many new avenues and so many new ways to display your content — it makes the playing field more even. Once before you had a couple of networks that made decisions, but now you can have a hit that’s not necessarily on television, so there’s a lot of fun, innovative and creative ways to get things going.
It’s interesting: the focus used to be on the main three broadcast networks, but now that’s no longer. There are more jobs and more opportunities for everyone. You have the landscape of cable, as well as the Internet, and people are thriving in all venues, so it’s exciting.