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Cartoon picks Samples as topper

Internet vet to continue online operations

The Cartoon Network has found its new top executive from the ranks of its online division: Jim Samples.

Samples, 39, becomes executive VP and general manager of Cartoon Network Worldwide. He’ll also continue to run Cartoon’s online operation, which he took over as general manager in March 2000.

He succeeds Betty Cohen, founder of Cartoon Network, who moved over to corporate parent AOL Time Warner early last month to work on new shows aimed at teens and young adults.

Flourishing to overdrive

“I’m taking charge of a network that’s flourishing,” Samples said. “My job will be to put it in overdrive.”

In recent months, Cartoon has finished regularly among the top five highest-rated basic-cable networks in both primetime and total day, an achievement for a channel that started out as a niche offering.

Despite a weak spot marketplace, Cartoon’s advertising revenues will rise from $133.6 million in 2000 to $162.5 million this year, according to Kagan World Media. The network’s revenues from cable operator license fees also will go up, from $61.2 million last year to a projected $65.6 million in 2001.

Getting original

Original series are at the top of Samples’ agenda, he said, driven by a $500 million commitment by the network to originals over the next five years.

Another big revenue generator for the network is the consumer-products division, led by the licensing bonanza of series “The Powerpuff Girls.”

Powerpuff Girls toys and other merchandise have become so popular that Cartoon’s sister company Warner Bros. Pictures will distribute a feature-length cartoon of the super trio in July 2002. Samples said his goal is to put more theatricals in production based on Cartoon Network series franchises.

‘Adult Swim’

Brad Siegel, president of Turner Entertainment Networks and Samples’ boss, said Cartoon Network is counting on its “Adult Swim” block of animated series to pull in more adults 18 to 34 to the network.

Beginning Sept. 2, Adult Swim will run every Sunday and Thursday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring new episodes of long-standing series like “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and “Home Movies.”

“We already deliver young adults with about one-third of our existing schedule,” Siegel said. Ramping up that percentage would allow Cartoon to bump up its prices to advertisers, which pay a premium to reach the elusive young-adult demo.

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