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7 Ways a Trump Presidency Could Hit Hollywood’s Bottom Line

From the AT&T-Time Warner deal to net neutrality, the business of entertainment might face some blowback

Last night, America voted to elect Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Hollywood chose otherwise — even if the president-elect’s highest profile prior his executive role was presiding over “The Apprentice.”

But now that Trump’s America is imminent, it’s going to affect the entertainment industry’s bottom line. Here are seven areas to watch:

1. China
Chinese companies, particularly the Dalian Wanda Group, have been scooping up Hollywood assets like Legendary Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions by the billion — which has recently got some attention from legislators in D.C. concerned about national security implications of China-owned content producers.

Trump made China one of his main campaign targets, promising high tariffs and to name the country a currency manipulator. His tough talk on the Middle Kingdom is a concern to Hollywood, not just because it may scare away deep-pocketed buyers, but because it threatens their access to the lucrative Chinese box office, which could be the world’s largest by the end of the decade.

“For our movies, China is a huge component,” a Hollywood producer told TheWrap. “If the election ultimately diminishes our ability to get movies into China, it’s very detrimental to all big tentpole movies.”

2. AT&T-Time Warner deal
Trump has already promised his supporters that he won’t allow AT&T’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which would be the biggest media deal in 16 years. That stance put Trump in agreement with former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who called on the Justice Department to block the deal. Hillary Clinton took a more nuanced approach, calling for it to be “looked into.”

AT&T’s bull case for the megadeal was that combining its distribution might and data analytics with Time Warner’s content, it could develop competitively priced and compelling streaming services to position itself as television moves from cable to the internet. Time Warner’s stock dropped just 1 percent Wednesday, but at $86.60, it remains well below AT&T’s acquisition price of $107.50 a share, indicating skepticism regardless of the outcome. But the election of Trump isn’t likely to improve its chances.

3. Press freedoms
The president-elect has promised to “open up the libel laws” and taken aim at journalists — sometimes by name — at rallies across the country. While a free press is protected by the First Amendment, a Trump administration could make it easier for aggrieved parties to sue media outlets, like the Hulk Hogan trial that brought down Gawker — funded by Trump donor and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

4. Facebook
Trump-related articles dominated Facebook, which is getting plenty of criticism for its role in facilitating a fake news misinformation bubble — and impacting the election. President Obama even called it a “dust cloud of nonsense.”

With the social networking giant vacuuming up the media industry’s traditional sources of ad revenue, media companies have earnestly partnered with Facebook — some might argue, out of desperation. But with its valuing of engagement and shareability over veracity seeming to have had an impact on this election — and the company recently overstating video views — the media and entertainment world could seriously re-evaluate its relationship with Facebook.

5. Net neutrality
In 2014, Trump tweeted his opposition to President Obama’s support of net neutrality — not allowing internet providers to throttle data or provide “fast lanes” for preferred content — which was codified in 2015 with new FCC rules. Media companies are lamenting the likely curbing of the open internet, and content companies investing heavily in streaming video are also facing headwinds.

“We have to imagine anyone focused on over-the-top video would view a repeal of net neutrality as a meaningful negative,” media analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in a Wednesday note.

6. Labor unions
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States President Matthew D. Loeb issued a statement Wednesday saying that Trump’s “anti-union statements virtually guarantee a rough road ahead for unions and the members they represent.”

Trump did well among union members this election, especially in the industrial Midwest, but he has endorsed the mainstream Republican position on organized labor, which supports anti-union policies like “right to work.” Hollywood has a substantial group of well-paid union workers who now face a Republican-controlled government that threatens to pull back organized labor protections.

7. Piracy
Trump, Bernie Sanders and eventually Hillary Clinton — but not Obama — oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries — but not China. Trump’s most consistent political position is probably his strong distaste for free trade, which he has argued ad nauseam is ripping Americans off.

However, the TPP also includes tough anti-piracy protections, crucially important to the content creation industry. Obama will almost certainly try to pass the TPP during the lame-duck session in Congress, but if he can’t — and it definitely seems the national mood is against it — it’s almost certainly dead in the water in a Trump administration.