2008 Media Prognostication Contest results and winners

The spirit of change is everywhere, including the results of the 12th Annual USA TODAY Media Prognostication Contest. For the first time in seven years, a Wall Street expert beat our readers — although just barely — in predicting how 2008 would unfold in the media.

Pali Research's Richard Greenfield scored eight correct answers out of 15. Four readers equaled that, but none came as close on the tiebreaker.

For 2009, he says that "there are a lot of cautious signs," including the weak economy, ongoing challenges from the transition to digital media, and the possibility of a Hollywood actors' strike.

But people still pay for the things they like, such as this year's blockbuster, The Dark Knight.

"Good content still can find a home," Greenfield says.

Look for our 2009 contest next week.

The 2008 scorecard:

1) Which film will have the biggest box office sales in its opening three-day weekend?

a) Hancock (Sony); b) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner); c) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount); d) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney/Walden); e) The Dark Knight (Warner); f) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal); g) You Don't Mess With the Zohan (Sony).

Answer: E. Batman flew with $158.4 million, breaking a record that Spider-Man 3 set in 2007. Dark Knight beat Indiana Jones, with $100.1 million, and surprise contender Iron Man, with $98.6 million. Of the rest: Hancock opened with $62.6 million; Narnia, with $55 million; The Mummy, with $40.5 million; and Zohan, with $38.5 million. Harry Potter was delayed to 2009.

2) Which animated film will open biggest?

a) Bolt (Disney); b) Horton Hears a Who (Fox); c) Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks); d) Madagascar: The Crate Escape (DreamWorks); e) WALL-E (Disney/Pixar).

Answer: D.Madagascar (renamed Escape 2 Africa) beat WALL-E by a whisker, $63.11 million to $63.09 million. Panda came close with $60.2 million, followed by Horton with $45 million, and Bolt, with $26.2 million.

3) Popular tours by The Police, Genesis, Justin Timberlake and Kenny Chesney did not keep total spending on concerts in North America from falling 10.2% to $2.6 billion in 2007, Billboard says. The 2008 total will be:

a) Down 10% or more; b) down less than 10%; c) flat to up at least 10%; d) up more than 10%.

Answer: C. The good news is that fans spent $2.8 billion, up 8%, to see performers led by Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, The Police and Celine Dion. The bad news is that the increase came from higher prices. Paid attendance fell to 48 million from 51 million, Billboard reports.

4) At year's end, the conventional wisdom is that the February 2009 transition to digital broadcast TV appears to be:

a) A success with no hiccup more serious than Y2K; b) a few major quandaries but basically OK; c) big problems; finger-pointing has begun; d) a potential disaster; investigations underway; e) the transition date is changed to avert disaster.

Answer: B. Few people noticed in test cities when analog signals were temporarily switched off. But there were enough glitches to make Consumers Union and other watchdogs concerned that, in February, millions will be unprepared.

5) Disney is the only major studio selling all movies on iTunes the same day they're released on DVD. How many majors (Disney, Fox, Sony, Universal, Viacom and Warner) will do so as of Dec. 1?

a) None; b) one, Disney or another; c) two; d) three; e) four; f) five; g) all six.

Answer: G. Studios acknowledged Apple's clout with an announcement in May.

6) What changes will Rupert Murdoch make at The Wall Street Journal?

a) Drop WSJ.com's top subscription fee; b) redesign the paper to make it more appealing; c) add at least one columnist from another News Corp. unit; d) to lure young readers, reporters must create MySpace pages listing their tattoos and piercings; e) more than one; f) none of the above.

Answer: B. The paper looks more like, well, other newspapers, with color photographs and splashy headlines replacing the Journal's once subdued columns and portrait sketches.

7) What Time Warner properties will new CEO Jeff Bewkes substantially unload, or be unloading, by Dec. 1?

a) AOL; b) Time Warner Cable; c) Time Inc.'s magazines; d) Cinemax's porn library; e) more than one; f) none.

Answer: B. Time Warner should collect $9.3 billion in early 2009 when it completes the spinoff of its cable unit.

8) Which of these deals will be announced and closed or still in progress by December?

a) AT&T buys EchoStar's Dish Network; b) Dish Network merges with DirecTV; c) NBC Universal buys DreamWorks from Viacom; d) someone buys The New York Times; e) more than one; f) None.

Answer: F. It was a quiet year for dealmakers.

9) At least one major city will end 2008 without a daily newspaper:

a) True; b) False.

Answer: B. No major city is without a daily newspaper yet, although it could happen soon. Detroit's two newspapers plan to offer home delivery just three days a week. Some suburban and rural papers stopped daily publication, continuing to offer news online. The Christian Science Monitor plans to go Internet-only.

10) The year's hottest new or made-over cable channel, in ratings and/or favorable buzz, will be:

a) Bio (formerly, the Biography Channel); b) Fox Business Network; c) NFL Network; d) Planet Green (formerly, Discovery Home); e) truTV (formerly, Court TV).

Answer: E. Shows such as Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel and The Smoking Gun Presents helped truTV fulfill its goal to reach young men. Its prime-time audience grew, while the average age fell to 48 from 52, making it more attractive to advertisers.

11) Because of the movie/TV writers' strike:

a) American Idol's finale gets its biggest audience yet; b) the Academy Awards ceremony either won't happen or will be seen as a disaster as executives and seat-fillers replace stars who won't cross picket lines; c) the 2008 presidential campaign is the most-hyped ever as major networks devote record prime-time hours to news; d) CBS mortifies TV decency activists by airing Showtime's Dexter and Californication in prime time; e) more than one; f) none of the above.

Answer: F. CBS aired Dexter, a series about a serial killer, but didn't air … you know.

12) In August, NBC Universal will air a record 3,600 hours of Beijing Olympics programming on multiple channels and the Internet. The general view of the shows, ratings and ad sales afterward will be:

a) Gold medal; they justified the investment; b) silver; good results, mostly worth the effort; c) bronze; mixed results; d) no medal; disappointing; e) disqualification; what were they thinking?

Answer: A. Swimming champion Michael Phelps made a splash with fans and NBC executives. A record 214 million people tuned in at some point during the 17 days of the Olympics to watch the TV coverage. NBC's websites also set records for unique visitors, page views and video streams.

13) Campaigns spent an estimated $2.7 billion on marketing in the 2004 presidential year and $3.1 billion in 2006. This year, political ad spending will be:

a) Less than $3.1 billion; b) at least $3.1 billion, but less than $4 billion; c) at least $4 billion, but less than $5 billion; d) at least $5 billion, but less than $5.5 billion; e) $5.5 billion or more.

Answer: C. Research firm PQ Media estimates the total will hit about $4.2 billion. The jump is due, in part, to President-elect Barack Obama's ability to compete in normally Republican states.

14) In the battle of high-definition DVD formats (Blu-ray vs. HD DVD), we'll see:

a) Blu-ray wins; b) HD DVD wins; c) most movies released in both; d) Standoff continues.

Answer: A. Toshiba abandoned the HD-DVD in February, after Warner Bros. said that it would back Sony's Blu-ray.

15) Which of these new media developments will be the most important in 2008:

a) Google introduces a wireless phone or phone service; b) Google's purchase of DoubleClick; c) an explosion of mobile Web applications as AT&T and Verizon open their systems; d) striking TV and movie writers create at least one major online video service; e) Amazon's Kindle electronic book does for print what the iPod did for music.

Answer: C. Software developers have gone on a tear offering new ways for users of sophisticated handsets such as the iPhone to stay entertained and informed, as well as in touch.

The tiebreaker:

The cast of HBO's Sex and the City will take the franchise to movie theaters in May. What will ticket sales be for Sex and the City: The Movie's opening three-day weekend?

Answer: $57 million. It seems Sex still sells.

WHAT THE EXPERTS PREDICTED

Christopher Dixon (GGCP): 1-c; 2-d; 3-b; 4-e; 5-c; 6-a; 7-b; 8-e; 9-b; 10-d; 11-e; 12-b; 13-c; 14-d; 15-c; TB: $70 million.

Mark Greenberg (AIM Capital Management): 1-c; 2-d; 3-b; 4-c; 5-c; 6-e; 7-e; 8-c; 9-b; 10-d; 11-a; 12-b; 13-b; 14-a; 15-b; TB: $48 million.

Richard Greenfield (Pali Research): 1-b; 2-e; 3-c; 4-b; 5-g; 6-a; 7-b; 8-f; 9-b; 10-d; 11-a; 12-a; 13-b; 14-a; 15-b; TB: $55 million.

Michael Nathanson (Bernstein Research): 1-c; 2-d; 3-a; 4-c; 5-b; 6-e; 7-e; 8-a; 9-b; 10-d; 11-e; 12-b; 13-c; 14-d; 15-c; TB: $30 million.

Hal Vogel (Vogel Capital Management): 1-c; 2-d; 3-c; 4-b; 5-b; 6-f; 7-e; 8-f; 9-b; 10-c; 11-e; 12-b; 13-c; 14-a; 15-a; TB: $76 million.