Stacey Lynn Koerner has spent her whole life in the entertainment industry, on both sides of the business. As a child, she was a singer, actor and dancer. Now, as she leads television research and programming analysis for Initiative Media, she has become a valued industry source about what Americans are viewing and how network programming trends are forming.
"Research is a very creative place to be. The data tells all kinds of stories," she said, adding wryly, "I know most researchers won't say that."
A New Jersey native, Koerner said she learned as a child, shuttling between auditions and rehearsals, that singing and acting didn't make for a stable life.
So when she went to Northwestern University in suburban Chicago, Koerner was determined to study something "concrete." She settled on something close to her heart—the entertainment business, dividing her time between production and business courses. "I wanted to stay close to the industry so I could always be in it."
Koerner got her first break on the business side of television working as a summer intern for Katz Television, where she worked with sales vet Bill Carroll. She stayed on with Katz throughout college, working as a sales assistant in its New York and Chicago offices. By graduation, she had amassed a year and a half worth of work experience.
Koerner had a knack for sales, but a keen interest in research. After college, she took a research position at Katz, and, before long, moved on to CBS.
There, Koerner's research was on a national stage. She pitched advertisers, collaborated on upfront presentations and worked with the head of news sales. She went on calls to media buying agencies. "It was like a think tank," she said. "We tried to find a story [with research] that no one else was thinking about."
And at the height of her growth at CBS, Koerner headed for the door. She left CBS to sing full time—pop to rock to R&B are her genres.
"I said explore it now, because life only gets more complicated," she said. "I learned I had coping skills," Koerner said. "I could make it and survive."
But 2 1/2 years later, she was back in the media industry. She enrolled in grad school at New York University, taking classes at night and working at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles during the day. At DMBB, she worked closely with media planners and learned another side of the media business. It was a frenetic schedule, but a short 18 months later, Koerner had her Master's in Media Ecology, which she describes as the study of how media relates to an environment.
She left DMBB when a former CBS colleague, Steve Sternberg, lured her to work for him in research at Bozell (which later became True North Media). Koerner calls it a turning point in her career because she began working on audience research as it related to national media buying.
"She has a rare ability to navigate between the worlds of research, planning, and buying," said Sternberg, now SVP of audience research for Magna Global USA, a corporate cousin of Initiative Media." My head often hurts after our friendly debates."
Sternberg also introduced her as a source for the media. Now, Koerner is frequently interviewed for print and broadcast stories on television trends. When Interepublic acquired True North, TN's buying arm was merged with Initiative and Sternberg went to head research at Magna—a new division—and Koerner moved up to head Initiative's research team.
At Initiative, she has expanded research on Hispanic viewers and hopes to analyze other minority groups as data becomes available. While studying minority group viewership patterns, she has been fascinated by "how viewing is different" and discovering " what others aren't talking about."