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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- You'd think Alan Wurtzel, as NBC Universal's top research guru, would spend the majority of his time slicing and dicing Nielsen numbers, all the better to devise new ways of showing that programs run on NBC and its cable brethren are the most-desirable, most-viewed and most-sampled pieces of TV entertainment this side of the Super Bowl. As NBC Universal's top research guru, some of his job is focused on just that.
Increasingly, however, Mr. Wurtzel is carving out a place for his employer as a proponent of the theory that viewership of TV programs has to include activity that has very little to do with sitting down in front of a living-room boob tube.
"The idea that application of trying to look at the total audience measurement and understand the ways in which people are consuming media -- this is what the future is going to be about," said Mr. Wurtzel, president- research and media development at the General Electric-controlled media conglomerate.
Mr. Wurtzel, 62, has played an instrumental role in the organization of a new entity known as the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, a consortium of the nation's biggest media companies, ad-buying firms and marketers -- including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and AT&T -- that will look at ways to measure audiences for video entertainment as it is consumed across TV, the internet and mobile devices.
Last year, he created an intense "Olympics lab" that monitored how audiences consumed NBC Universal's transmission of Olympics content on TV, in out-of-home venues, online and via mobile. And he has for the last few years promoted a "total audience measurement index" as a means of measuring NBC's popular dramas, comedies and other fare.
"All the rules are changing," said Mr. Wurtzel. "There is no rule we might have had five years ago that we can take for granted. It all has to be reconsidered in a very different consumer technology environment."
"[Alan] has an extraordinary ability to take what can be complicated and copious amounts of data and present them in an informative and engaging manner," said Mike Pilot, president-sales and marketing at NBC Universal.
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