Prognosticator extraordinaire: Reader beats media pros

Here's proof that nobody used performance-enhancing drugs in the 11th Annual USA TODAY Media Prognostication Contest: The victor, a reader, won on the tie-breaker with eight correct answers out of 15, a drop from last year's winning total of 10.

Marlin Toser, 75, of Harrisburg, Pa., a retired Defense Department supply systems analyst, says he tracks media as editor of Non-Sport Update, a magazine for collectors of movie, TV, music and other non-sports trading cards.

He says he's apprehensive about the media business in 2008.

"With rising gasoline prices and the (writers') strike, it's pretty edgy right now. It's a crapshoot, just like this contest. If we knew the answers, we'd be millionaires."

Our top Wall Streeter, Pali Research's Richard Greenfield, got seven right and beat AIM Capital Management's Mark Greenberg on the tiebreaker.

As a team, however, the analysts' averaged five right to 3.4 by our nearly 1,000 reader entrants.

The 2007 scorecard

1)

Which megasequel will generate the most box office in its three-day opening weekend?

a) Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Fox nws); b) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner twx); c) Live Free or Die Hard (Fox); d) Ocean's 13 (Warner); e) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Disney dis); f) Spider-Man 3 (Sony sne).

Answer: F. Spidey caught a record $151.1 million in its opening weekend web. That out-swashbuckled Pirates' $114.7 million. Trailing: Harry Potter ($77.1 million), Fantastic Four ($58.1 million), Ocean's 13 ($36.1 million) and Live Free or Die Hard ($33.4 million).

2)

Digital albums or their equivalent (10 tracks = 1 album) accounted for 5.3% of album sales as of late 2006. What share will be digital by late 2007?

a) 5.3% or less; b) 5.4% to 7.0%; c) 7.1% to 9.0%; d) 9.1% to 11.0%; e) 11.1% to 13.0%; f) More than 13.0%.

Answer: F. Digital represented 14.8% of 519.1 million albums sold. But the rise didn't offset the nearly 15% drop in CD sales. Overall, album sales fell 9.2%.

3)

About 35.9 million different people visited YouTube.com in November 2006, up from 1.1 million in November 2005, says Nielsen/NetRatings. November 2007 traffic will be:

a) Down 50% or more; b) Down less than 50%; c) Flat or up 50% or less; d) Up more than 50%, but less than 100%; e) Up 100% or more.

Answer: D. The site, whose name is becoming synonymous with Web video, attracted 63.1 million unique visitors in November, Nielsen/NetRatings says.

4)

Weekday newspaper circulation fell 2.8% in the six months ended Sept. 30, 2006. In that period in 2007, weekday newspaper circulation will:

a) Rise; b) Be flat/fall less than 1%; c) Fall at least 1% but less than 2%; d) Fall at least 2%, but less than 3%; e) Fall at least 3%, but less than 4%; f) Fall 4% or more.

Answer: D. Circulation fell 2.6%.

5)

Which of these deals will be announced and either close or still be going ahead as of Dec. 1?

a) Sirius siri and XM Satellite Radio xmsr merge; b) EMI and Warner Music wmg merge; c) Microsoft msft buys Yahoo yhoo; d) AT&T t buys EchoStar dish or DirecTV dtv; e) Viacom via-b buys DreamWorks Animation dwa; f) More than one; g) None.

Answer: A. Sirius awaits a federal OK of its $4.7 billion acquisition of XM, announced in February.

6)

Which animated movie will generate the most box office in its three-day opening weekend?

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