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The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election will make the media industry a harder sector in which to succeed and is likely to impact the global appeal of US media content.
Entertainment content has historically been one of the US's most significant exports, not just for the revenues it generates, but for the "soft power" it represents. Hollywood has long been the gold standard for the global movie industry, while the country's music, TV, and games industries have all been similarly successful at exporting a positive vision of the US. Moreover, non-US revenues for these sectors now exceed domestic ones. The ascendancy of President-elect Trump, however, could spell trouble for the media and entertainment industry in the US and beyond.
Ambivalence, or even hostility, towards the US, and US influence among both audiences and legislators, will continue to limit the expansion of US content and services into both mature and developing markets. Arguably, the global popularity of President Obama helped mitigate this to a degree, but selling content from a US led by Trump – who embodies the country's least appealing traits to many of his critics outside the US – may be that much harder now.
Moreover, what plays well to baseball-hatted men in the Rust Belt – bluster about ripping up trade deals – may not cut it with the tough negotiators US content providers must deal with outside the US, and could yet jeopardize the carefully negotiated deals that Hollywood has built in China, for example. The further opening (or not) of the Chinese market looks set to be a major story of the next five years and US content providers will be anxious to ensure that doors remain open amid wider trade talks.
We wait now to see what the US's predominantly Democrat-supporting creative community comes up with in response to a Trump-led administration. Perhaps in opposition we may yet see (as we saw in the 1960s and 1970s) a golden age of challenging, thoughtful, and groundbreaking new content from US musicians, TV producers, games developers, writers, and filmmakers.
Even that, however, may not happen given concerns about the security of the First Amendment under a Trump presidency. Peter Thiel (a major financier of Trump's campaign) has recently shown, with Gawker, that media organizations can be sued out of existence. And Trump has shown little interest in press freedom, having revoked the press credentials of media outlets that covered his campaign unfavorably. There was also an exchange of views with Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and the Washington Post, in which Trump suggested that Amazon may come under anti-trust scrutiny if he became President. Such an environment – one we associate more with petty dictators than US presidents – is hardly conducive to freedom of expression.
A new golden age of content, one that challenges Trump's view of the US and appeals to audiences worldwide, may yet come to pass. But the media industry will likely be a more hostile and less free environment in which to work. And, despite a growing demand for premium content from audiences around the world, US products may have just become harder to sell to consumers outside of the US.
Nick Thomas, Practice Leader, Digital Media
Consumer & Entertainment Services
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