03/28/2008 02:44 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Online Futures Market Attempts to Guide Entertainment Industry to Success

Any baseball fan understands the feeling: it's the seventh inning, the starting pitcher's looking shaky, and you've got a bad feeling. In your dugout there's a highly-paid professional calling the shots. Surely he knows what he's doing, right? And, then, thwack. A batter goes yard, and the crowd collectively moans, "I knew this was going to happen."

When it comes to altering outcomes, what good is the wisdom of crowds? Probably not much to your baseball team, but in the entertainment industry, where hyped properties often stumble badly amid a chorus of "How could we have knowns" from the executives in charge, maybe there's something you can do about it. Enter MediaPredict, an online futures market that puts the wisdom and taste of crowds to the test.

MediaPredict, in essence, is a game: you register, receive a pot of pretend money, and you use your kitty to make investments in various "markets." The markets are usually presented as questions, a current example is "Will the Smashing Pumpkins' 'Zeitgeist' Debut at Number One." The market then fluctuates depending on how bullish or bearish the investors are, and accuracy is rewarded. The most obvious similarity is to the Iowa Electronics Market, which has been celebrated for its accuracy in predicting the outcomes of Presidential elections. MediaPredict's purpose, well stated in this entry on their blog, is to have a hand at influencing the entertainment industry in giving us products of value.

Does it work? That's hard to define, but the results can be intriguing. Take their market for the opening day haul for the movie The Transformers. MediaPredict peak prediction was a $45 million take for the actioner. But, in the days before it's July 3rd release, the share price dropped precipitously, and while it ended up slightly inflated, it's interesting to note that when the Media Predict market opened the day before the release date, they had it exactly right: predicting a $28 million haul (the movie ended up doing $27.4 million worth of business).

Not bad. Maybe, over time, we can get an answer to an age-old question: wouldn't everything be better if we were the ones in charge?