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Is it clouds, or just smoke?

Suhler forecast predicts 2002 rebound

HOLLYWOOD — Did anyone see the recession coming? Maybe, but if they did, they’re hard to find.

This comes to mind with the release this week of the annual 370-page Veronis Suhler “forecast for the communications industry.” The report acknowledges the “dark clouds of a slowing economy” but nonetheless predicts a rebound in 2002.

And how well did they do last year? Well, a year ago the investment bankers hypothesized

that Internet advertising was on the rise and likely would continue on a dramatically upward projectory. Twelve months later, nothing could be further from the truth, as Netcos search frantically for any reliable revenue stream in the absence of Web advertising.

Similarly, the 2000 report enthused that “broadband Internet access is forecast to explode” within a few years. Today, slow rollout of broadband access is the chief reason interactive television remains in its infancy.

Elsewhere, one could argue that the economy-driven sluggishness that’s attacked TV revenue was hard even for the nation’s top economists to predict. And in filmed entertainment, Veronis knew better than to climb too far out on a limb, suggesting only that the box office would continue to “hold its own” against DVD and homevid.

But the report’s writers must wish they’d swallowed some chill pills before tackling their music-industry forecast.

“Recorded music will experience dramatic usage gains spurred by the new digital technologies that enable downloading of music,” they observed.

Oops. A year later, downloading technologies are either in disrepute or disarray, and most entertainment congloms are seeing stagnant or declining music cash flow.

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