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After completing graduate studies at the University of Michigan and NYU, Alan Wurtzel embarked on career in academia, working as an instructor in communications at Queens College and later as assistant professor and television coordinator at the University of Georgia. While working in the latter capacity, he was awarded a research grant from ABC to study the impact of television on children. Soon thereafter, Wurtzel joined the network's research department, beginning a 21-year association with ABC, during which he held various positions. From 1983 to 1988, he spent five years monitoring the content of ABC's entertainment programming and commercials. Promoted to senior vice president, marketing and research services, Wurtzel assumed the responsibilities for the analysis, development and planning of audience, program and marketing research.
In the 90s, Wurtzel became senior vice president, news magazine and long form programming for ABC News, with responsibilities for the network's mainstays "20/20" and "Primetime Live" as well as the various specials hosted by Barbara Walters and the periodic series "Peter Jennings Reporting". Additionally, he helped in the development of "Turning Point" and a series of specials hosted by newsman John Stossel and served as executive in charge of "Good Morning America (GMA)" from April 1995 when that show was shifted under the umbrella of ABC News. Having survived through the company's changes in ownership (Capital Cities, Disney) and the ratings decline of "GMA", he was appointed to the newly created position of senior vice president, media development, brand management and research for ABC, Inc. in August 1998 charged with examining ways to exploit the value of the brand names of Disney and ABC. After only eight months in this capacity, however, Wurtzel opted to move to NBC (speculation had it partly because ABC wanted him to relocate to California). As NBC's new president of research and media development, he was charged with overseeing the planning, development and analysis of all audience, program and marketing research for NBC Television Network, Stations and West Coast divisions.
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