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


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).


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%.


About 35.9 million different people visited 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.


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%.


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.


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

a) Bee Movie (DreamWorks); b) Meet the Robinsons (Disney); c) Ratatouille (Disney-Pixar); d) Shrek the Third (DreamWorks); e) The Simpsons Movie (Fox); f) Surf's Up (Sony); g) TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (Warner).

Answer: D. At $121.6 million, the third Shrek beat the second Shrek's record animated opening weekend. Following: The Simpson Movie ($74 million), Ratatouille ($47 million), Bee Movie ($38 million), Meet the Robinsons ($25.1 million) and TMNT ($24.3 million).


Which of these new ventures will be seen as the biggest success in 2007:

a) Allbritton's multimedia political news venture The Politico; b) CBS Records cbs; c) Condé Nast business magazine Portfolio; d) Fox's business news cable channel; e) a YouTube-like video website created by the Big Four TV networks.

Answer: C. Portfolio's off to a promising start, at least journalistically. Politico is close, but we dinged it for mistakes, including an erroneous report that Sen. John Edwards would drop his presidential campaign to help wife Elizabeth deal with cancer.


By Dec. 1, the Los Angeles Times owner will be:

a) Still Tribune; b) David Geffen; c) Ron Burkle and Eli Broad; d) Philip Anschutz; e) The Minuteman Project; f) More than one; g) Someone else.

Answer: A. A close call. By Dec. 1, Sam Zell hadn't completed his $8.2 billion deal to take Tribune txa, including the L.A. Times, private.


About 36.4 million people saw Taylor Hicks win the American Idol finale in 2006. For 2007, the finale audience will be:

a) Down 5% or less; b) Down more than 5%; c) The same; d) Up 5% or less; e) Up more than 5%.

Answer: B. With 30.7 million viewers, the ratings show that 15.5% fewer people saw Jordin Sparks beat the guy who makes sound effects when he sings.


As DVRs become popular and more people watch shows on their own schedule, what will major broadcast networks and advertisers count in determining who watches a TV show?

a) Live-only viewing, as now; b) Live plus same-day DVR playback; c) Live plus three-days; d) Live plus four-days; e) Live plus seven-days; f) Something else.

Answer: C. NBC was the first to go with the change, but just about everyone quickly followed.


Which of these changes will Washington lawmakers or regulators approve this year?

a) Internet providers can't favor some websites; b) Cable and satellite companies must let people subscribe to channels individually; c) Companies can own a newspaper and TV station in a market; d) The limit on the TV and/or radio stations a company can own in a market will be raised; e) More than one; f) None.

Answer: C. This month, the Federal Communications Commission voted to let a single company own a newspaper and TV station in bigger markets.


The Wall Street Journal is undergoing a redesign in January, shrinking page width to 12 inches. What will happen to its average weekday circulation in the six months ending in September?

a) Rise from its 2.04 million; b) Fall less than 1%; c) Fall at least 1%, but less than 2%; d) Fall at least 2%, but less than 3%; e) Fall 3% or more.

Answer: C. It fell 1.5%, which may be one reason the Bancroft family took Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion offer for parent company Dow Jones.


Which of these companies will be bought?

a) Imax imax; b) Lionsgate lgf; c) TiVo tivo; d) 4Kids; e) World Wrestling Entertainment wwe; f) More than one; g) None.

Answer: G. Aside from Murdoch and Dow Jones, and Zell and Tribune, this was a quiet deal year.


Cable programming is changing. Which stock will appreciate most in 2007 (as of Dec. 1)?

a) Crown Media Holdings crwn (Hallmark Channel); b) Discovery disca; c) New Frontier noof (adult pay-per-view and VOD adult); d) Outdoor Channel Holdings outd; e) Viacom.

Answer A:Investors seem to like family programming. Crown was up a kingly 78%, while Discovery rose 58%. By contrast, Viacom was up 3%, Outdoor was down 46%, and New Frontier fell 51%.


Which of these unconventional sports stocks will appreciate most in 2007 (as of Dec. 1)?

a) AVP (pro beach volleyball); b) International Fight League (martial arts); c) United States Basketball League; d) World Wrestling Entertainment.

Answer: D. None rose, but the WWE smacked down its rivals by falling just 3%. AVP fell 17%, USBL, 24%, and the International Fight League, 97%.


Scholastic schl sold about 6.9 million copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the first 24 hours of release in July 2005, up from 5 million for the previous book in July 2003. How many copies of the seventh and final volume, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will sell in the first 24 hours?

Answer: 8.3 million. Harry was magic to the end.

What the experts predicted:

•Marla Backer (Research Associates):1-e, 2-b, 3-c, 4-c, 5-g, 6-d, 7-d, 8-a, 9-d, 10-a, 11-f, 12-b, 13-g, 14-a, 15-b, TB: 8.0.

•Greenberg:1-e, 2-c, 3-d, 4-d, 5-e, 6-d, 7-d, 8-f, 9-e, 10-c, 11-f, 12-c, 13-g, 14-e, 15-d, TB: 6.0.

•Greenfield:1-f, 2-c, 3-d, 4-d, 5-f, 6-d, 7-d, 8-b, 9-e, 10-e, 11-f, 12-c, 13-g, 14-e, 15-d, TB: 7.5.

•Hal Vogel (Vogel Capital Management):1-b, 2-b, 3-c, 4-d, 5-d, 6-c, 7-d, 8-b, 9-b, 10-c, 11-f, 12-a, 13-g, 14-b, 15-b, TB: 7.1.

•Tom Wolzien (Wolzien LLC):1-f, 2-c, 3-d, 4-d, 5-f, 6-e, 7-e, 8-f, 9-d, 10-b, 11-f, 12-b, 13-f, 14-NA, 15-NA; TB: 8.4.

•Coming this week:

USA TODAY's 2008 Media Prognostication Contest ballot. Enter by mail or online to test your media savvy against the pros.