HGTV taps Samples as president

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Jim Samples, former head of Cartoon Network, has been named president of HGTV.

Samples will succeed Judy Girard, who earlier this year announced plans to retire after more than 10 years with Scripps Networks. He will join the channel Oct. 1, working with Girard before she steps down later this year.

Samples has been in the TV industry for nearly 15 years, rising through the ranks of Turner Broadcasting to the position of executive vp and GM of Cartoon Network Worldwide. While overseeing the strategic vision and management of all aspects of Cartoon Network and Boomerang from 2001-07, Samples is credited with the creation of and rollout plans for Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night sister channel, now a top-rated channel among adults 18-34.

Samples was head of Cartoon until February, when he resigned after taking responsibility for an "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" marketing fiasco that put the city of Boston on edge and cost Turner Broadcasting System $2 million. The guerrilla marketing campaign done by Cartoon's sister network Adult Swim and Interference Inc. went awry and led to a terror alert.

Samples, who is relocating from Atlanta to Knoxville, said he had been approached by Scripps Networks executives -- including president John Lansing, executive vp Burton Jablin and Girard -- after leaving Cartoon but had wanted to take some time off before taking on a new position, spending the summer hiking around Europe.

"Before I left, the only folks I really wanted to talk to was Scripps and HGTV because it was such a good fit with who I am and what I like to do in my free time," he said, noting how much he enjoys home renovation projects. "The opportunity to take my personal passion and make that my job and take my experience in TV and apply that to something I'd like to be doing when I'm not at work, that's a match made in heaven."

Samples said he also is looking forward to joining a network "that is stronger than ever and has a lot of momentum around new shows," including Vern Yip's "Deserving Design" along with "Design Star," which has its Season 2 finale at 9 p.m. Sunday. He added that he wants to expand the HGTV audience -- particularly bringing in younger viewers -- while continuing to appeal to its current viewers.

Neither Samples nor Lansing see drastic changes in HGTV's future.

"This is by no means a makeover; it's the best of both worlds as we bring in a proven industry executive to build on the long-running success of one of America's most admired television networks," Lansing said. "Like Judy, Jim knows how to create compelling, original programming that viewers love while also broadening the appeal of the brand to attract new audiences."

In his new role, Samples will work closely with Scripps Networks' interactive group as well as the new business development team to create new growth opportunities and brand extensions for HGTV. He will report to Jablin.

Samples was named head of Cartoon in August 2001 after serving as general manager of Cartoon Network Online. He had also been general manager/senior vp of TNT and Cartoon Network Latin America and was an international financier at NationsBank.
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