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WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter For 36 years, ASI Entertainment has helped the likes of NBC, ABC and CBS, as well newcomers like Fox, TNN and MTV, to gauge the potential success of their TV offerings by testing the programs before audiences. Now, the Glendale-based company is seeing its mix of clients grow as companies totally unrelated to Hollywood from Wall Street investment houses to aerospace and pharmaceuticals firms turn to ASI to get a better handle on the tastes of TV viewers. “Television (audience research) was heretofore of interest solely to Hollywood,” said Allan Yasyni, who became ASI’s president and chief executive last month. “Today, nearly all major corporations for one reason or another have to understand televisual media and the end user.” ASI’s parent company, Dallas-based Media Advisors International, recently chose Yasyni to head the company, based on his experience helping firms from different business sectors to understand the importance of television viewers’ tastes. Yasyni has worked in the entertainment industry since the early 1960s, first as an actor and producer, then as chief executive of Quinn Martin Productions in the 1970s (producer of hit shows like “Barnaby Jones” and “FBI”), and then with his own media research and strategic planning firm. Since joining ASI in June, Yasyni has helped the company secure six or seven new clients from industries outside Hollywood clients he refused to name, citing confidentiality agreements. Many companies suddenly find they need ASI’s expertise after venturing into the entertainment arena. Hughes Electronics Corp., for example, which has numerous satellites in space, entered the television market earlier this decade when it launched its DirecTV service. A company like that needs detailed information about TV viewers to help it make decisions about which programming to acquire, how to structure their program schedule and how to judge the schedule’s effectiveness, Yasyni said. Wall Street firms also need intimate knowledge of television viewing habits, especially when a client is considering an acquisition in the industry. And then there are the more traditional clients. Fox Broadcasting Co. has been a longtime client of ASI, using the firm’s audience-testing services to rate its television pilots and commercials. But now Fox plans to expand its use of ASI to study the process by which a television show becomes a hit, said Charles Kennedy, Fox’s vice president of programming and market research. ” ‘Ally McBeal’ wasn’t a hit at first, and we’re interested in looking at what took place to make it a hit,” Kennedy said. “This will help us evaluate programs in the future, so we can make sure we don’t cancel a show for the wrong reasons.” ASI assembles audiences in its viewing rooms and furnishes each viewer with a hand-held device with which they rate the program as it goes along. They twist a dial in one direction if the show is interesting and twist it another if they are bored. The information is collected onto a CD-ROM and TV execs can watch to see which parts of the show were of interest to whom. “We can watch a replay of people’s reactions and see moment-by-moment their reactions to specific characters in a show,” Kennedy said. Audiences also are debriefed in discussion sessions as part of the program evaluation process. ASI uses about 30,000 test viewers each year, who are chosen based on factors such as viewing habits, age and gender. The company has about 150 employees in the Los Angeles area and 600 nationwide. It has offices in New York and conducts at-home testing via cable hook-ups. While most of ASI’s test audiences view television shows and commercials, it also has begun testing audience reactions to other media products including Web sites, software and CD-ROMs.

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