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TV chief quits in wake of stunt

Jim Samples, head of Time Warner's Cartoon Network, resigns after a promotion by the channel backfires, creating a bomb scare.

February 10, 2007|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

The head of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s Cartoon Network resigned Friday in the wake of a promotional stunt that backfired in Boston when residents and police feared that electronic devices featuring characters from one of the cable channel's shows were actually bombs.

Jim Samples, who had been with the Atlanta-based company for 13 years, told colleagues in a memo that he deeply regretted "the negative publicity and expense" the stunt caused and that he felt compelled to "step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch."

The former executive vice president and general manager said he hoped his departure would "put this chapter behind us."

In accepting Samples' resignation, Turner Entertainment Group President Mark Lazarus said the channel's senior managers would report directly to him until a new head of Cartoon Network is announced.

Turner's parent company is media giant Time Warner Inc., based in New York.

The marketing stunt in Boston may have been only the final straw for Samples, whose leadership of the network had long been under a cloud. The network, which features a variety of programs including classic cartoons and anime, has failed to gain viewership momentum or pose a credible challenge to other youth-targeted cable networks such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

Cartoon Network's most popular shows are "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," "Ben 10" and "Class of 3000."

Last month, in a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," blinking 12-inch-by-14-inch electronic boards featuring some of the show's characters were placed in 10 cities. In Boston, the devices, which Turner executives later said were harmless, were planted on bridges and subway lines and in other crowded areas.

On Jan. 31, Boston authorities received numerous 911 calls from people who thought the circuit boards, which had wires attached to them, were explosives. That led the police to close some bridges and roadways.

Turner and an advertising agency linked to the campaign have agreed to pay the city $2 million for the cost of its emergency response.

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greg.braxton@latimes.com

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