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What will the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency be on large media deals like AT&T’s planned purchase of Time Warner?
IAC CEO Barry Diller — whose company is known for its high rates of M&A — believes it’s still too early to tell.
“We don’t have a clue yet,” the IAC chairman told attendees of Business Insider’s Ignition conference Tuesday evening in New York. “All we have is what seems to be an offhand remark from the president-elect about AT&T and Time Warner. We have no idea how this administration will deal with M&A compared with the Obama administration.”
He continued: “Like many things in this incredible experiment that’s taking place right now before our little eyes, we don’t know.”
Though Diller made sure to note that he didn’t vote for Trump, he appeared to approach the election results with an open mind. “Half the country voted for change. The other half didn’t,” he said. “That half [that voted for change] had the electoral votes. They’re in charge. My attitude is, bring it on.”
Diller’s comments came in a day filled with remarks from some of the media industry’s top executives about the impact of a Trump administration on their business. Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes said earlier at BI’s conference, “I thought the threat to the First Amendment came from the Democratic side more.” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, meanwhile, expressed a similar opinion to Diller’s, commenting at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference that it was still too early to tell.
Diller also was asked about remarks that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made earlier in the day that under Trump, the FCC likely won’t prioritize net neutrality rules. “Who could blame Randall from doing that?” said Diller. “All consolidated large media players, particularly Verizon and AT&T … all fought very hard for there never to be net neutrality and have tried every year to get rid of it.”
IAC CEO Joey Levin, who appeared onstage with Diller, noted that the company’s businesses, which include comedy website CollegeHumor and video streaming service Vimeo, “will survive in any case.”
Asked about the impact of fake news on The Daily Beast, Levin noted that much of the publication’s traffic is direct to its website, which he said “has a very clear editorial voice and clear journalistic standard.”
Diller chimed in that fake news can be controlled. “You can very easily have a process that will prevent actual fake news,” he said. “And it must be adopted.”
One of Levin’s biggest projects at IAC is his leadership of Vimeo. He stepped in as interim CEO of the service, which positions itself as an ad-free alternative to YouTube, earlier this year after the departure of CEO Kerry Trainor. When asked about his vision for the site, which Levin has said will move into subscriptions in the months ahead, he responded that Vimeo “will have a service like Netflix” but added he doesn’t necessarily believe that the streamer will compete head-to-head with the original video giant. Levin also noted that Vimeo has no plans to launch a skinny bundle, even though Hulu and YouTube are both working on live TV offerings of their own.
“We’re very much interested in the breakup of the big bundle,” Diller acknowledged, later adding, “Having Vimeo as a platform to then be able to compete in all these various niches, that’s fantastic.”
Diller also revealed that he sees voice as the next big technology sector to focus on, pointing to Amazon’s Echo and Alexa voice service.
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