For TV networks, it is all about the demos. Knowing what your target audience likes and dislikes is pivotal to developing and acquiring series that fit, and making the right pitch to the right advertisers.
When your networks include E!, with its younger female audience; G4, with its young, tech-savvy guy viewers; and Style, which skews toward affluent women in their 20's and 30's, you need someone who can maneuver these very different audiences with ease.
Cyndi McClellan, executive VP of program strategy and research for the Comcast Entertainment Group, which operates all three networks, combs through that data to determine where the networks should be going and which shows should come along for the ride.
“The difference for a network versus a physical store, for example, is that we never get to talk to our viewers; it is only through research that we can hear from them,” she says. “It sheds light on a lot of hypotheses and speculation. You start to develop your own instincts, and a lot of times they're right.”
McClellan started in the syndication business at Twentieth Television, but it was at research firm Frank N. Magid Associates that she got a crash course in how networks use the data, and the business questions they face on a daily basis.
Back to school
“It was a little like going to graduate school; I was really seeing a diverse range of business challenges and questions,” she recalls.
It was also at Magid that McClellan first started working with Comcast; she eventually joined the company in 2002 as VP of research. Among her accomplishments is a brand-tracking strategy for the Comcast nets, seeing who watches and why, and the perception people have of the channels.
McClellan wears many hats at the company; besides managing research for CEG, she is in charge of acquisitions and scheduling. She also oversees production for one of E!'s signature programs, The E! True Hollywood Story, which aired its 500th episode on May 27.
As E! and G4 get more aggressive in their film and off-network acquisitions, McClellan's range of experience becomes invaluable.
“While we may personally like the shows,” she explains, “we have to say, 'OK, is this something our audience would like to watch?'” —Alex Weprin