Executive oversaw rise of network

Tom Karsch, the exec who took over as general manager of Turner Classic Movies a year after it launched in April 1994 and guided it into the ranks of the most respected movie networks in television, has resigned.

In a memo to colleagues, Karsch, who rose to the top job of exec VP-general manager, went through the list of the network’s accomplishments, from creating lots of original programming to setting up ancillary revenue streams (a Web site, publishing division, DVD operation and on-demand platform) to spearheading film preservation. TCM is also one of the few commercial-free networks in basic cable. It reaches more than 75 million homes.

His success at TCM has “made me think and dream bigger,” Karsch said in the memo. “I’m anxious to see what else I can do, and with TCM in such a good place and my career at the point it is, this is the time,” he said, to seek “new challenges.”

There’s no word yet on his replacement at the net. Six months ago, parent Time Warner added TCM to the portfolio of Steve Koonin, president of TNT and TBS.

TCM tends to operate below the radar. Because it shuns 30-second advertising spots, it doesn’t subscribe to Nielsen ratings. Its competitor AMC started selling advertising time in 2003 and now pockets more than $150 million a year from media buyers. But TCM has resolutely steered clear of Madison Avenue, harvesting its revenues from cable-operator license fees, which are expected to climb above $200 million this year.

Before he joined TCM, Karsch held executive posts at AMC, TNT and Showtime.

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