Samples leaves company amid poor CW ratings

Media Rights Capital TV president Keith Samples has ankled the shingle.

According to insiders, MRC brass have been scouting for Samples’ replacement but haven’t yet zeroed in on a candidate.

Samples’ departure comes as MRC’s Sunday-night block on the CW has failed to attract an audience so far. The producer‘s primetime lineup this past Sunday — reality entry “In Harm’s Way” and dramas “Valentine” and “Easy Money” — posted just a 0.2 rating/1 share among adults 18-49 and just 692,000 viewers.

Even worse, “Easy Money” — which scored decent reviews from critics — posted a 0 share in its most recent airing.

Former Lifetime and WB Entertainment prexy Susanne Daniels continues as a consultant to MRC, where she’s been working behind the scenes the past several weeks. And Dawn Parouse remains as the shingle’s development topper.

Parouse was believed to have been offered the top MRC TV job, but insiders said she wasn’t interested.

Under Samples, MRC TV has had a busy year, landing countless broadcast and cable projects. Beyond the CW fare, MRC recently launched the Lifetime sitcom “Rita Rocks” and animated HBO comedy “The Life and Times of Tim.”

Production company is also behind ABC’s upcoming animated laffer “The Goode Family.”

With such a hefty slate of freshman series in MRC’s inaugural year, some industry execs have wondered whether the company has bitten off more than it can chew. (Some cite Artists Television Group, which similarly sold several series in its first year, only to be hit hard financially when none of those shows survived.)

MRC, however, notes that it’s well funded (indeed, it just closed a three-year, $350 million revolving credit facility with a syndicate of banks led by JPMorgan Chase and Comerica last month).

MRC recently put “Valentine” and “Easy Money” on a production hiatus — a move the shingle said was pre-planned (Daily Variety, Oct. 14). But with the shows not performing well, and eight segs of both already in the can, MRC may have also wanted to wait to see if the shows improve before spending more money — an economically sound move.

According to others familiar with MRC, the company’s bigger issue has been ad sales, which it oversees as part of its CW Sunday-night time buy. The nation’s current economic turmoil has hit the TV advertising market especially hard, and that, coupled with the ratings disappointments, has hurt the economic prospects of the MRC block.

Meanwhile, Tribune — which played a big part in bringing MRC and CW together, and even trumpeted the benefits of bringing older-skewing female fare to its stable of CW affiliates — is distancing itself from the venture, with execs maintaining that reports of their involvement in the block were overblown.

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