Business Stories of the Week: Aug. 11

by August 11, 2017
Disney will roll out a Netflix-style streaming service next year, signaling a major shift for cable companies and consumers alike. (Photo by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Disney will roll out a Netflix-style streaming service next year, signaling a major shift for cable companies and consumers alike. (Photo by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Culture wars splinter Silicon Valley

In the wake of Google’s firing of a software engineer for an internal memo that challenged the company’s diversity efforts, many on the right are criticizing the tech industry for silencing dissenting views. While Silicon Valley politics have long skewed left, the rise of Donald Trump last year gave way to a new freedom for some to voice what were long-considered politically incorrect sentiments, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The memo that launched the latest debate has put Google in a bind. On the one hand, the company has long promoted a culture of openness. But like many tech firms, Google struggles with criticism that it doesn’t do enough to hire and promote women and minorities, and the company has been under investigation by the U.S. government after accusations of gender pay inequality.

Disney takes aim at Netflix

In an effort to address threats to its expansive television business, the Walt Disney Company announced on Tuesday that it will launch two Netflix-style streaming services. Still unnamed, the services will be powered by BamTech, a technology company that handles direct-to-consumer video and in which Disney has invested $2.58 billion. The two services will be broken out into sports programming from ESPN, and Disney and Pixar movies and TV shows, the New York Times reported. Disney’s cable channels have been seen as the reason many viewers were refraining from cutting the cable cord entirely. It’s expected that the move to streaming services will reverberate throughout the industry.

Kraft Heinz cooks up an Oprah strategy

If it goes well, we may soon be referring to it as the Oprah effect: In an effort to ignite sales growth, Kraft Heinz has tapped media magnate Oprah Winfrey to become the face of a new line of refrigerated soups and side dishes made without artificial flavors and dyes, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. Winfrey has been credited for the turnaround at Weight Watchers after she bought a stake in the company and started pitching the brand—that company’s stock quadrupled this year, as its advertisements tout Winfrey’s weight loss.

Chuck E. Cheese’s gets a makeover

The iconic childhood birthday party destination is trading its bright colors and checkerboard paneling for more muted tones, sleeker furniture and brighter lighting in an attempt to improve the experience for adults. While about 15 percent of the company’s sales comes from birthday celebrations, Chuck E. Cheese’s plans to compete with restaurants like Olive Garden, Chick-fil-A and Cheesecake Factory by luring families for everyday meals, too. And it’s not just the décor that’s getting an overhaul. The child-centric menu will now feature more items geared towards mom and dad, CNBC reported.

Uber investor cries foul and sues

In a suit filed Thursday, Benchmark Capital alleges that Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick breached his fiduciary duty and contractual obligations by stacking the company’s board with allies. The venture capital firm was one of the first investors in Kalanick’s ride-sharing company and ultimately led the charge in pressuring the CEO to resign. The suit seeks to invalidate three new board seats that Benchmark believes were put in place to clear the path for Kalanick’s eventual return as CEO, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Restaurants save the economy (maybe)

As politicians focus on reinvigorating the steel and coal industries, they may be overlooking the most promising sector of the U.S. labor market, The Atlantic reported on Tuesday. Restaurant jobs are growing faster than health care, construction or manufacturing, and in some metropolitan areas, restaurants are powering nearly the entire economy. But it isn’t clear whether it’s a sustainable market. While the typical private-sector job pays about $22 an hour, the typical restaurant job pays about $12.50.