HGTV builds with Samples

Ex-Cartoon chief is new president

Jim Samples, the former head of Cartoon Network who lost his job in the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" marketing fiasco, has been named president of HGTV.

Samples will succeed Judy Girard, who in July 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 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 Cartoon Network and Boomerang from 2001-07, Samples is credited with the creation and rollout of plans for Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night sister channel that is 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" campaign that put the city of Boston on edge and cost Turner Broadcasting System $2 million. The guerrilla marketing campaign for the series 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, Tenn., said he had been approached by Scripps Networks executives — including president John Lansing, executive vp Burton Jablin and Girard — after leaving Cartoon, but he wanted to take time off before embarking on a new position. He spent 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.

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