Taking over the Cartoon Network reins from Betty Cohen, who stepped down as president about a month ago to develop multi-platform teen projects for AOL-Time Warner, new executive VP and GM Jim Samples is eager to keep the train running.
‘I’ve been with Cartoon Network since ’93,’ says Samples, mostly dealing with the company’s international interests. He was previously head of Cartoon Network Online and in charge of the net’s Latin American division before that. He admits that this move is a big challenge, but notes that due to his obvious familiarity with the company, it’s not like he has a steep learning curve with which to contend.
Samples characterizes Cohen’s role in the company as the linchpin to keeping all divisions integrated and working together. In keeping with this, Samples sees his chief responsibility as maintaining momentum and balance at the network. ‘It’s a creatively led organization,’ he explains, with a focus on developing an entire multimedia package–not just quality programming, but great interstitials and ancillary categories as well.
Samples is particularly excited about the net’s entry into theatrical production with The Powerpuff Movie slated to bow next July. While there’s no doubt in his mind that it will be a success, the less obvious and more challenging prediction is what to do next. ‘There’s a huge opportunity over time,’ Samples says of theatrical projects, and Cartoon Net does plan to develop more big-screen features if Powerpuff does well. Other breakout characters will be considered, but ‘it’s not a given that a successful TV property will be successful theatrically,’ he stresses.
With Powerpuff merch sales hitting the US$500-million mark this year, consumer products is another area Samples feels will continue to grow. Programming-wise, he sees a lot of potential for both ratings and merchandise in boy-skewing action-adventure series Samurai Jack (see ‘Cartoon gives Samurai Jack a sharp merch edge’ on page 21 of KidScreen August 2001).
Cartoon will continue its move to expand audience share by developing animation for all ages. To date, two-thirds of Cartoon Network viewers are kids, and while it is still very committed to that audience, the launch of the Adult Swim block in September suggests that many new projects might skew to an adult audience.