Girard Leaving HGTV

Longtime TV executive Judy Girard is retiring as head of Home & Garden Television sometime before year’s end, the Scripps Network outlet said Monday.

A search is under way for a replacement, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based network group, owned by E.W. Scripps, said.

Girard, 61, has been with Scripps Networks since 1998, first overseeing Food Network and lastly at HGTV’s helm. Her TV career earlier included a stint as senior vice president of programming at Lifetime Television and as programming VP at Americast, a joint venture to acquire programming for a telco partnership.

For Scripps, Girard also ran Shop at Home, a money-losing home shopping channel that she reprogrammed to tie in more closely with Food stars such as Emeril Lagasse. Scripps shut it down one year ago, after Girard shifted to HGTV in 2005.

She said in a release: “I have had an amazing time in television and feel extremely fortunate to have spent the last 10 years at Scripps Networks running two of the best lifestyle networks in cable. Now I am looking forward to spending more time with my husband and enjoying some of the lifestyle pursuits our networks have helped to popularize.”

Girard is expected to be a consultant to Scripps after she leaves as HGTV president.

In the release, Scripps Networks president John Lansing said: “With HGTV fully distributed, the challenge for Judy and the brand team has been to further strengthen the relationship between the brand and the viewer. She has done that, capitalizing on the strong engagement HGTV enjoys with consumers while also expanding the definition of the brand to include real estate, living green and really all things that relate to home -- no matter how you define it. As a result, HGTV has had solid, year-to-year ratings growth month after month.”

With Girard at the helm, HGTV produced its biggest primetime hit, HGTV Design Star, which attracted 2.29 million viewers to its season-one finale last September. The celebrity-judged design show returns this Sunday, July 22, for a second season.

HGTV is in about 92 million U.S. TV homes. During Girard’s 1998-2004 tenure at Food (first as general manager, then president in 2000), that channel added such stars as Rachael Ray and Giada De Laurentiis and added about 40 million homes to its distribution base.