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Ex-Cartoon Chief Samples to Head HGTV

Jim Samples, who resigned as Cartoon Network’s general manager this spring following a controversial marketing stunt in Boston that was mistaken for a potential terrorist attack, will be joining HGTV as its new president, officials said Wednesday.

Samples, 44, will succeed Judy Girard, who earlier this year announced plans to retire after more than 10 years with Scripps Networks. He will join HGTV Oct. 1, working with Girard before she steps down later this year.

Samples, a respected and successful programmer, essentially “fell on his sword” last February and took responsibility for a disastrous marketing stunt that backfired on Cartoon Network. In the stunt, local artists put light boards, bearing the image of a character from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, around Boston near major transit points. Authorities in Boston took the signage to be devices planted by terrorists, prompting local police and federal authorities to shut down highways and waterways.

In the aftermath, Turner Broadcasting System and its marketing agency, Interference, agreed top pay $2 million to state, local and national agencies to avoid prosecution over the stunt.     

HGTV is the largest of the Scripps Networks brands, with more than 95 million household subscribers and 5 million monthly visitors to its Web site, HGTV.com. Scripps Networks, the leading developer of lifestyle programming for television, the Internet and other mobile outlets, also owns Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living and Great American Country.

One of Sample’s mandates will be to try to expand HGTV’s audience “by broadening the appeal of the brand,” Scripps Networks president John Lansing said in a prepared statement.

"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.”

Samples has been in the television industry for nearly 15 years, rising through the ranks of Turner Broadcasting to the position of executive vice president and general manager of Cartoon Network Worldwide. While overseeing the strategic vision and management of all aspects of Cartoon Network and Boomerang from 2001 to early 2007, Samples is credited with the creation of and rollout plans for Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late night adult animation franchise, which rose to number one in ratings among Adults 18-34 during its time period.

Samples' background also includes extensive experience with emerging interactive media as well as programming and marketing for international audiences. He served as general manager of Cartoon Network Online for two years, during which time traffic to the site increased by more than 230 percent. Prior to that, Samples led an international programming and marketing team that boosted Cartoon Network to the top spot among all cable networks in the South American region.

"HGTV has expanded the definition of 'home' in the last few years to broaden its appeal and reach new audiences while still retaining its very loyal core viewers,” Samples said in a prepared statement. "Few things are more important than your home, whatever and wherever that may be. Home is central to everyone's life, and HGTV is creating content that is both relevant and entertaining to today's consumer.”

Samples also said he expects to work closely with Scripps Networks' burgeoning Interactive Group as well as the company's New Business Development team to create new growth opportunities and brand extensions for HGTV. He will report directly to Burton Jablin, executive vice president of Scripps Networks, overseeing content and brand strategy for all the networks.

A native of Atlanta, Samples has a bachelor's degree from Presbyterian College and a master's degree in international business studies from the University of South Carolina.