The gospel according to…

When media executives want detailed sales and profit projections for sectors within their industry, they turn to the latest forecast of Veronis Suhler & Associates (VS & A).

But starting this week, they will have another place to turn. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the huge (150,000 employees worldwide) New York-based professional services firm, will issue its first annual Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, looking ahead to 2004.

The report is a direct challenge to VS & A, the New York-based media investment banker and consultant, and its Communications Industry Forecast, the most recent edition of which came out in July and also looked ahead to 2004.

The two efforts cover much of the same ground, including broadcasting, cable, film, the Internet, recorded music and various branches of publishing. Also, both look ahead in five-year increments while providing historical data going back 10 years or more.

Wilkofsky Gruen Associates, the economics-research firm that provided most of the data for the VS & A forecast for 14 years, jumped ship at the end of last year to work with PwC. The Publishing & Media Group, New York, has replaced Wilkofsky & Gruen as the outside research firm for the VS & A report.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two forecasts is that the PwC report covers Europe and Asia as well as the U.S. But starting next year, VS & A will publish a separate international forecast, according to Leo Kivijar, VS & A's in-house economist who oversees all research for the firm's reports.

PwC is releasing its forecast at its annual media conference in New York this week. "I thought we were at the point in the maturity of our entertainment and media practice that we ought to step out and provide a forecast," says Kevin Carton, who heads that practice.

Executives at both companies acknowledge that the reports are as valuable from a public-relations standpoint as they are for the data they contain.

"It's part of our market-position strategy," says Carton, a 33-year PwC veteran. "If you don't stay out in front, people ask, 'Where are they?'"

"Two or three years from now, this will be the bible," says Carton of PwC's forecast. As for VS & A's report, he says, "we're going to beat'em up. This is not an inexpensive exercise. Veronis Suhler kind of does it. But we did it big time."

Counters Kivijar: "We own the brand. If you go to the major CEOs and strategists at most media companies, you'll find our book. It's known and widely accepted because it's accurate. Last year's forecast was within plus or minus 3%."