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Blockbuster deals, boardroom dramas and an election to boot

The media and communications industry saw a tumultuous year of high-stakes mergers, lingering deal speculation and a closely watched election.

Though not announced until October, AT&T Inc.'s $85.4 billion proposed purchase of Time Warner Inc. quickly gained much of the spotlight. Speculation about whether AT&T would use the deal to aggressively boost its content offerings, particularly in mobile video, set markets buzzing.

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Time Warner, which owns CNN and premium channels like HBO, saw its stock jump 7.82% on Oct. 21, on the deal rumors, reaching a high of $89.48 a share. Its share price has been on a mostly upward trajectory since then.

AT&T, however, saw less momentum, as the deal immediately drew some political critics, leading to speculation about how President-elect Donald Trump's administration might approach the mega-merger. Its stock ended the year up 23.98%, as of Dec. 29.

Another video provider, Charter Communications Inc., saw notable gains following the completion of its record-breaking merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. and its acquisition of Bright House Networks LLC on May 18. After the FCC approved the deals May 6, Charter's stock started spiking, with it eventually ending the year up 59.58%.

Post-election trading also saw some volatility, with many stocks registering small initial gains that later subsided. Sprint Corp., for example, saw its shares jump 13.4% Nov. 9, the day after Trump’s victory. The company ended the year up 143.37%, as of Dec. 29.

Beyond the AT&T-Time Warner blockbuster deal, the media and entertainment industry also was defined by the long-running Viacom Inc. courtroom battle.

The stock had a rocky start to the year when Viacom on Feb. 9 disclosed that its fiscal first-quarter revenues fell 6% year over year. The news sent shares immediately down more than 21%.

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The stock also slid in June as the long-running court battle between then-Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone continued. Viacom's stock dipped 5.10% June 27, the day Dauman and company director George Abrams filed their opposition to Redstone's push to end the case. Dauman later exited the company. By the end of the tumultuous year, the company's stock had fallen 14.29% as of Dec. 29.

CBS Corp., meanwhile, saw a number of gains following rumors of a merger with Viacom. On Sept. 29, Sumner and Shari Redstone sent a letter to the two companies' boards outlining a proposed merger that would leave the family at the helm of the new company. Buzz reached a fever pitch following a report that the companies could merge by Thanksgiving, sending CBS' stock up 4.1% during the week that ended Oct. 21. The company's stock dipped when the merger rumors were eventually quashed, but as of Dec. 29 it had ultimately climbed 36.86% for the full-year period.

In Silicon Valley, popular social media platforms like Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. made headlines of their own.

Twitter gained 5 million monthly active users during the first quarter of 2016, but with news that the company posted a lower-than-expected revenue of $594.5 million, its stock immediately dropped 13.05%.

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The company experienced a brief bright spot Oct. 5, with rumors of a takeover by Walt Disney Co. leading to a stock jump of 5.74% in a day. The company's stock saw similar gains from speculation about a purchase by either cloud-computing company Salesforce.com Inc. or Alphabet Inc. unit Google Inc. Nevertheless, as of Dec. 29, the company's stock had fallen 29.17% for the full year.

Its social media competitor Facebook weathered a series of scandals, including concerns about whether the site routinely suppressed news from conservative news sites in its algorithmic "trending" feed or failed to do its part to police fake news, but the company's stock appeared to shrug it off. By the year's end, Facebook’s stock had risen 11.17%.

Apple Inc., meanwhile, was marked by a series of international struggles, particularly in China, where the government ordered Apple to shutter its iBooks and iTunes Movie services. Still, CEO Tim Cook made the first of several visits to China in May, saying the company "remain[s] really optimistic on China" on an earnings call.

Berkshire Hathaway, the investment firm run by Warren Buffett, also disclosed it had purchased 9,811,747 shares of Apple in the first three months of 2016, while investors Carl Icahn and David Tepper abandoned their stakes in the company. Apple rode out some of the bumps, rising 10.90% for the full year.

Other tech firms were defined by gains in some areas even as they declined in others. Microsoft Corp., for example, saw an immediate dip of 10.21% in April, following the release of an earnings report showing a decline in fiscal third-quarter earnings. Revenue for its cloud-computing services, however, had increased 3% during the fiscal third quarter.

The company's stock ultimately climbed 13.37% for the full year.