Jim Samples to top HGTV

Controversial exec new president of network

Jim Samples, the executive VP/GM of Cartoon Network forced out in February when a guerrilla-marketing stunt threw Boston into a terrorist-alert panic, has landed the job of president of HGTV.

Samples joins HGTV Oct. 1, succeeding Judy Gerard, who had previously announced that she would retire at the end of the year.

The HGTV Samples is inheriting has recently harvested its best-ever Nielsen ratings to Samples. For the summer (May 29 to Aug. 27), the network averaged 1.16-million total viewers in primetime, a 6% jump over the same period last year, putting the network solidly in the top-20-rated basic-cable channels. (It finished in a dead heat for 16th place overall with History Channel during the summer.)

Madison Avenue has a soft spot for HGTV because the network skews heavily toward women, who watch newer series like “HGTV Design Star,” “Color Correction,” “Find Your Style” and “My House Is Worth What” along with veteran shows such as “House Hunters” and “Designed To Sell.”

The “breadth and depth of experience that Jim brings,” said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks, HDTV’s parent, are “very relevant to our growth strategy.”

Samples reports to Burton Jablin, executive VP of Scripps Networks, who runs HGTV and its siblings the Food Network, DIY and Fine Living.

The stunt that made Samples a sacrificial lamb involved the covert installation of battery-powered boards promoting Cartoon’s hit series “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” throughout the heart of Boston. Unfortunately, the local police mistook them for explosive devices and closed off large parts of the city. Cartoon’s parent Time Warner had to fork over $2 million to compensate the city for causing the disruption.

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