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Predictions for 2016: Mergers, Spinoffs and More Donald Trump

Mega-mergers, corporate leadership shake-ups, and lots more Trump. These are just a few of the major, industry-altering trends that Variety writers and editors predict will take place in 2016.

At the beginning of last year, few could have foretold the great changes in store in the worlds of technology, television and film. Relativity went belly up. Sumner Redstone’s faltering health provoked a public relations crisis at Viacom and CBS. Comcast struck out in its quest to land Time Warner Cable, paving the way for John Malone’s Charter Communication to swoop in.

Next year will have its own share of drama. From a possible sale of Time Warner, to Apple potentially buying Viacom, to a trip to the ivory tower for Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton, we’re channeling Nostradamus and going out on a limb with what we project the big transactions will be over the next 12 months. Here’s a look at the likely bidding wars, spinoffs and takeovers that will redefine the entertainment business.

Apple Goes Hollywood

The kind of deal everyone is waiting for will finally happen in 2016: A tech giant is going to buy a content company. There’s more than a few that have pockets deep enough, but look for Apple to make the plunge first. With more than $200 billion in cash on hand, the Cupertino colossus is poised to rewrite the rules of the media game. Viacom or HBO might seem the likeliest prey, but Sony Corp. is a juicier target given the mix of hardware and programming under its hood.

Race to the White House Creates Windfall

Political TV advertising will shatter all pre-existing records for the 2016 campaign and presidential race, renewing calls for curbs on spending that won’t produce changes, no matter who wins.

Time Warner on the Block

Time Warner will become an M&A target once again. Bidders could be some of the usual suspects — 21st Century Fox, for one — or a surprising contender like Patrick Drahi’s Altice. Time Warner conversely may look to bolster itself against unwanted advances by bulking up with ITV or Discovery Communications.

Donald Trump Gets His Dream Job

Donald Trump will not be the next president — or the Republican nominee. But after he ends his campaign, he will host his own talk show. While Fox News would be the logical place, Trump will aim for something bigger, like his own branded channel.

Meet Professor Lynton 

Michael Lynton, an intellectual who’s fulfilled his ambitions in Hollywood, will leave his post as the CEO of Sony Entertainment and either go into academia or lead a nonprofit.

Box Office Takes a Dive 

After passing the $11 billion mark for the first time in history in 2015, domestic ticket sales will dip next year, inspiring ever-continuing cries that the movie business is broken. More troubling will be a sharp decline in attendance among younger moviegoers, as teenagers tire of yet more revivals of decades-old franchises such as “Independence Day” and “Ghostbusters.”

Lionsgate Hooks Up With Starz

John Malone will stop flirting and commit, snapping up Lionsgate and merging it with Starz, the cable channel he controls. Look for a “Twilight” or “Hunger Games” television series to hit Starz within a year of the marriage.

Disney Breaks Into Gaming

After spending big to buy Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, Disney continues its trend of major acquisitions by purchasing a high-profile video-game company such as EA in order to exploit Disney’s wide-ranging library of costumed “Avengers” and “Star Wars” Jedis.

Twitter Hangs a For Sale Sign

Approximately one year after naming Jack Dorsey its CEO, Twitter will run out of patience with a lack of meaningful results from his turnaround efforts. The board will put the company on the block, attracting the biggest firms in the tech sector. But the winner will be Google, which has a gaping hole to fill in its social-media strategy given the failure of Google+.

Alibaba Buys a Studio

Apple won’t be the only outsider to double down in Tinseltown. Desperate to get its hands on Western movies and shows, the Chinese Internet giant will write a big check to acquire a Hollywood player. DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate (act fast, John Malone), CBS or Viacom could all find themselves on the receiving end of overtures from a highly motivated suitor.

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