Looking Back At 2008 As We Head Into 2009

I've made my predictions for 2009, so It only seems appropriate to look back at the predictions I made a year ago.The world has been transformed by the financial crisis over the past year, so I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I actually got right, and how much continues to seem to be true.

Below are my eight predictions for 2008, following my analysis of each.

1. I predict 2008 will have both very high upside and very low downside for the TV industry.
I was right that the strike transformed the movie business. The bad news is that some of the changes that resulted from the strike -- like skipping the pilot process -- didn't result in the higher ratings networks were hoping for. Network TV is still losing ground to cable, and everyone is still trying to figure out how to make money online. I do think that the strike really stole power from the network upfront ad sales period in May. Unfortunately, the fact that overall ad sales are on a big decline means the networks don't get any more power from the current situation.

2. Sumner Redstone is going to be making headlines.
Boy did I get this one right. Sumner Redstone's battle with his daughter Shari escalated and Sumner really gave shareholders of CBS and Viacom a big surprise when he sold $233 million in shares of both companies stock because of debt held by hit private National Amusements theater chain. CBS and Viacom stocks have suffered heavily this year -- VIA down nearly sixty percent, CBS down about seventy. The octogenarian has plenty on his plate for 2009 -- managing National Amusements debt, perhaps by selling the theater chain, and helping CBS and Viacom transition to a digital-distribution future while managing the advertising downturn.

3. I predict that a number of the big name production shingles will be acquired by a conglomerate or will go out of business.
I correctly predicted that Time Warner's New Line specialty studio would disappear -- Time Warner merged it with Warner Brothers. I also accurately predicted that Picturehouse would disappear. United Artists, run by Tom Cruise, is still around, but wasn't a huge force in 2008 until "Valykrie" came out in December.

4. I think the model created by Modi Wiczyk at Media Rights Capital, will take off.
I got this totally wrong. Media Rights Capital merges talent representation and an equity investment in content -- talent owns a piece of revenues. Yes, as more content generates more revenue online, I can see this being significant, but it wasn't in 2008. And MRC launched a new approach to television programming this fall, when it took responsibility for programming and selling ads for Sunday nights on the CW network. That didn't quite work out and in November the CW took control back of its Sunday lineup.

5. I think we're likely to see some spin-offs.
I got this one wrong-- no spin-offs yet. I do still think that Time Warner will spin off AOL in 2009, but with the credit markets as tight as they are, there's no reason to expect any other major entertainment spin-offs, like the potential spin-off of NBC Universal from GEI'd expected.

6. There will be two main categories for innovation--the mobile device you carry in your pocket and the entertainment hub in your living room.
This prediction falls into the category, of yeah, but so what? Yes, there continued to be innovation in the way we consume content on the go with the iPhone and now its many competitors and on our couch. I marvel at the fact that by owning a TiVo and subscribing to Netflix I can access any movie in my Netflix queue on demand. But this is more of an evolution than a revolution. I'll be curious to see at the Consumer Electronics show in early January if there are any other huge advances in this space.

7. I think this will be a busy year, more exciting stories to chase than ever.
It was a wild year, but not quite as I or anyone expected. Yes Blu-ray won the high def format war -- but will people have the cash to buy the new Blu-Ray players? I and the rest of the country am consuming more content online, but are the content generators getting adequately compensated. One story -- exciting and somewhat terrifying -- that dominated this blog over the past year was the continuing decline of the print industry, highlighted by Sam Zell's failure to turn around the Tribune company, filing for bankruptcy in December.

8. I think private equity and hedge fund money will withdraw from Hollywood.
I couldn't have been more accurate here-- the financial crisis pulled Wall Street money out of Hollywood far faster and more dramatically than I could have anticipated. Now even the biggest names in Hollywood -- like Steven Spielberg -- are taking longer to raise credit than expected.

**I also predict that presidential candidates will use new media in a whole new way.
This presidential campaign was unlike any other, arguably transformed, truly democratized by the Internet. President-elect Barack Obama's huge fundraising was possible only because of the power of the web.

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