Global Glance: Oct 13, 2015
A quick look at intriguing international stories
By John Bostwick, Managing Editor, Radius
Welcome back to Global Glance. This week we look at:
- Expat “helpers” in Singapore and Hong Kong
- Hulu’s decision not to go global
- Soccer and rugby popularity in the US
Expat “Helpers” in Singapore and Hong Kong
Hong Kong and Singapore are home to many expats in the banking industry. That industry is demanding and leaves workers with little time to pursue any activities outside their jobs. As a result, many Hong Kong- and Singapore-based expats are availing themselves of live-in maids, who can be hired relatively cheaply in those countries. An article last week in the UK-based eFinancialCareers says of the maids: “Commonly called ‘helpers’ and typically hailing from Indonesia and the Philippines, they number about 330,000 in Hong Kong alone, and earn about US$350 a month in Singapore and at least US$540 in Hong Kong.”
The helpers pick up children from school, cook, clean and perform other domestic chores for their employers. One Hong Kong-based expat is quoted in the eFinancialCareers article as saying, “My … helper makes me healthier, happier and more productive at work. That’s because my stress is reduced due to her assistance in my day-to-day living.”
Of course, hiring domestic workers is hardly a work-life balance solution for the masses, even at relatively cheap going rates. And the eFinancialCareers article gives a glimpse of the dark side of helpers, noting that “a minority of domestic workers suffer from horrific verbal and even physical abuse.” Notwithstanding the downsides, the article suggests that many expats are becoming increasingly reliant on live-in maids, at least in Hong Kong and Singapore. Given that trend and the value most companies place on expats, it may be that compensation to pay for helpers becomes a common perk in expat packages.
Hulu’s Decision Not to Go Global
Netflix’s hugely ambitious global expansion strategy — which includes a plan to expand into 200 countries by 2017 — has been widely reported. What is less well known is that another OTT player is taking a different tack. Back in 2010, Hulu expressed interest in going global, but its CEO Jason Kilar was cautious. The Wall Street Journal reported in December of that year that Hulu “wants to expand its online video service internationally and would be willing to take on new investors to help it do so.” The article noted, however, that Kilar “acknowledged that launching Hulu in other countries could be challenging because foreign sales of US TV shows are already a booming business.”
Nearly five years later, Hulu has a new CEO, but the company remains guarded about global expansion. Bloomberg.com reported last Monday that Hulu’s current chief executive Mike Hopkins “isn’t planning international expansion for now.” The Bloomberg article quoted him saying, “if you look at adoption and broadband penetrations around the world, [international expansion is] compelling and something we will take a look at.” That’s hardly a rousing call to action.
In lieu of global expansion, Hulu is jiggering its domestic strategies to try to keep up with Netflix and Amazon Prime. Unlike those two rivals, Hulu’s content has traditionally appeared with ads. But the company recently announced its No Commercials plan, which costs four dollars per month more than Hulu’s traditional plan. As Time explained last month, “The move is the latest aggressive tactic Hulu has taken this year as it tries to shake off its image as an also-ran in the streaming wars. The company signed a big-ticket deal to stream all episodes of Seinfeld in June and in August signed a nonexclusive deal with the pay-TV channel Epix for the rights to hit films like The Hunger Games and Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Given these domestic content investments and Hulu’s shrinking market share, it’s unlikely the company will enter the international market any time soon. It will be interesting to track the fates of Hulu and Netflix over the next few years in light of their very different global-expansion strategies.
Soccer and Rugby in the US
The most profound change in the US sports landscape in the last twenty years has been the growing popularity of soccer. Not only is this country’s fledgling Major League Soccer now a significant presence in cities like Portland, Seattle and Kansas City, but foreign leagues like the EPL are popular with urban liberals and the under-25 set across the country. And let’s not forget the importance of women’s soccer. The US Women’s National Team’s World Cup final victory over Japan this summer drew more than 26 million US viewers to become the most-watched soccer match (men's or women's) in US history.
Soccer’s rise in the US is somewhat surprising given that there are plenty of Americans — many of them cultural and political conservatives — that still view the sport as something unpalatable and “foreign.” And if you think I’m exaggerating, check out Ann Coulter’s 2014 article “America’s Favorite Pastime: Hating Soccer,” which is a fair representative example.
Rugby is another sport that is arguably “un-American.” Unlike soccer, though, rugby doesn’t elicit widespread devotion or hatred in the US. It just remains more or less invisible. We have no professional rugby league and very few people of any age either play or watch the game. I’ve been unable to discover any US TV-ratings information on the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which is now in progress. But I’m confident in saying that US viewership is trivial, despite the fact that the tournament is expected to draw 4 billion viewers worldwide.
Oddly enough, The Wall Street Journal — that mainstay of US conservatism — has provided some excellent coverage of the Rugby World Cup, including a defense of the sport. The Journal’s October 5 piece, “Why the US Should Care About Rugby,” makes the case that “the US sporting public should set aside some mental space for this game that seems so foreign to most and to others little more than a warm-up activity for some serious drinking,” and that rugby is “the future for a country that learns each day how much more impossible it is to turn our backs on the rest of the world.”
The article’s writer, Matthew Futterman, makes the solid argument that playing rugby instead of American football would likely significantly reduce concussion rates in this country. After all, rugby players — who don’t wear pads let alone helmets — have always been taught tackling techniques that avoid head-on contact.