Steve Sternberg

Exec VP-Audience Analysis, Magna Global

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Steve Sternberg, exec VP-audience analysis at Magna Global, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos., pointed out in a new study that Nielsen Media Research's minute-by-minute ratings system should ideally be a more precise second-by-second system. The kicker? He released it just in time for this year's upfront season, likely challenging many buyers' purchasing decisions.
Steve Sternberg, Exec VP-Audience Analysis, Magna Global
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The study worked like this: Mr. Sternberg's staff recorded and timed roughly 60 programs on broadcast and some prime-time cable; then they logged in the time and length of each program segment, national and local commercials, and network promos. They lined up these data with Nielsen data and finally were able to analyze commercial pods.

He and his staff took six months to do the study. And the 50-year-old researcher is already working on the next one, which will include more broadcast, more cable and syndication, he says.

"I'm kind of crazy. I love what I'm doing," he says. "I love trying to find answers to problems that everybody is trying to struggle with."

He certainly has a sense of timing. "We try to anticipate the next big needs of clients," he says. This study, released in April, squarely addressed a topic consuming the TV industry: just what kind of audience is watching commercials.

"Buyers and sellers [are saying] that 'We want to get to some type of semblance of a commercial measurement right now,' " he says.

Mr. Sternberg was first honored in Advertising Age's Media Maven report in 1997 and since that year he has placed in the top six of Ad Age's MediaTalk, a listing of the most-quoted media executives.

As a consistently influential figure in the media business, Mr. Sternberg was also one of the first to use median age as a descriptor, which he says has now become commonplace in TV research.

"Steve is among the industry's leading research people. His opinions have guided and molded this industry for well over a decade," says Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at Turner Broadcasting. "He makes important points that work in the interests of his customers, and he also makes important points that make research better."

* Minute by minute? How about second by second?

* Has the knack to make the research better by asking right questions
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