WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 20, 2015
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5 Global Business Headlines From Last Week (Jun. 8 to Jun. 14)

There were some mind-boggling things happening in the business world last week. While dinosaurs were devouring the box office during the weekend, a former White House aid went to work for McDonald’s. Meanwhile, Netflix continues to generate competition worldwide, while Apple unleashed a fleet of vehicles out in major cities, just as United States consumers begin spending again, at least for the time being.

See Also: 5 Global Business Headlines From Last Week (June 1-7)

1. 'Jurassic World' Takes Bite Out of Box Office

"Jurassic World," the fourth film since the original 1993 release, ripped apart the box office this weekend as it gobbled up $204.6 million in domestic ticket sales, and $511.8 million internationally.  

This makes the dinosaur film the second-largest opening ever - 2012’s "Avengers" is No. 1 and this year’s "Age of Ultron" is No. 3. "Jurassic World" also devoured 2011’s "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and its $483 million take at the box office. 

The movie was so successful that it has already been confirmed that the film’s lead, Chris Pratt, has signed on for more sequels. 

Despite the monstrous numbers, the reviews have been a mixed bag. "Jurassic World" has a 70 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics are, apparently, upset about the paucity of character development, a large number of clichés and the immense amount of product placement. There were also complaints about Bryce Dallas Howard running away from dinosaurs wearing "nude patent heels." 

Nevertheless, moviegoers were enthusiastic to hand over their money to Universal Studios.

2. McDonald's Hires Former Obama Press Secretary

The ex-Obama spokesman has been tapped by McDonald’s as the company’s new global chief communications officer, which includes managing government and public affairs. McDonald’s is attempting to construct "a more modern, progressive burger company," and they believe Gibbs is that person to lead the charge, according to a corporate statement

Gibbs will take over from Bridget Coffing, who is retiring after 30 years with the corporation.  

It has been argued by new McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook that the fast-food giant must adjust its marketing scheme to push the idea that it’s focusing on food safety and health. The company has already instituted an array of new changes, including using antibiotics-free chicken, inserting more natural ingredients in its food and debunking various myths in web videos. 

In the first three years of President Obama’s tenure at the White House, Gibbs parroted the calls for a higher minimum wage and espoused First Lady, Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move" health initiative during his time in Washington. 

Soon after he left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Gibbs co-founded strategic communications firm The Incite Agency. Two years later, he signed with NBC News and MSNBC as a contributor. Due to this new role, he has already submitted his letter of resignation to the network. 

3. Alibaba to Launch Subscription Video Service

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut, revealed that it is planning to establish a video streaming service a la Netflix, within the next two months, according to Reuters. The service will be called Tmall Box Office (TBO) and will purchase content from Chinese production houses and produce motion pictures in-house.  

Speaking at a press conference Sunday, Patrick Liu, Alibaba’s head of digital entertainment, told reporters that the company hopes it can replicate the success of HBO and Netflix. In a statement, Liu said that it wants "to redefine home entertainment." 

Liu also noted that 90 per cent of TBO’s content will come with a fee, while the remaining 10 per cent will be available to view for free. The business model consists of either having customers pay a monthly subscription or pay per show. 

Digital content would be just another revenue stream for Alibaba, as the company already maintains games and music portals and has a significant stake in Chinavision, a film production company. Alibaba is also more profitable than Amazon and Netflix. 

This comes as Netflix has been trying to enter several markets worldwide, including China. If Alibaba becomes a massive success - don’t forget the Chinese government’s apprehension to foreign companies - then it could prove difficult for Netflix to bode well in Beijing.

4. Apple Unleashes Fleet of Camera-Equipped Vehicles

Apple is looking to improve its Maps app and compete against Google’s popular Street View. The iPhone maker announced last week that it has launched a fleet of camera-equipped cars to cruise around the world and collect data that will then be used for its Maps. 

Similar to Google Maps, Apple will blur out faces and license plates prior to publishing this data online, which is a measure to protect privacy. 

From Jun. 15 to 30, residents in England, Ireland and 13 U.S. cities will notice various Apple vehicles driving on city and rural streets, according to a list released last week. 

Many bystanders have already noticed these camera-mounted vehicles. Photos have been released and they have depicted a white or blue Grand Caravan with a camera contraption installed on top of the vehicle with wires connected to the tires. Some have even thought this initiative is just to test out its self-driving technology –however this hasn’t been confirmed. 

Apple Maps was unveiled in 2012 as a measure to replace Google Maps as the default mapping app on the company’s mobile devices. Although there was a lot of hype, users vehemently chastized the app for its wrong directions and many hiccups. Apple CEO Tim Cook was then prompt in releasing a rare apology. 

5. U.S. Retail Sales Spike in May

Have American consumers returned to their old buying habits? That’s the question many economists are asking after May data showed U.S. retail sales jumping, a jump especially driven by automobile sales. 

Last month, retail and restaurant sales increased by 1.2 per cent compared to April, to a seasonally adjusted $444.9 billion, says a Department of Commerce report. Here are some of the key measurements from the retail sales data: 

  • Two per cent boost in auto sales; service station sales gained 3.7 per cent. 
  • 0.1 per cent increase in sales at appliance and electronics stores. 
  • 0.8 per cent jump in furniture store sales. 
  • 0.1 per cent increase in restaurant and bar sales. 
  • 1.5 per cent surge in clothing store sales; 1.4 per cent rise in online store sales 

When automobiles, food services, gas and building materials are taken out of the equation then overall retail sales rose only 0.7 per cent, as opposed to April’s 0.1 per cent increase. 

Economists expect that consumer spending will remain strong for the next few months in addition to an improving labor market, a higher savings rate and soaring housing prices. 

Was there anything else worth mentioning in the business world last week? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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