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US streaming giant Hulu cuts 200 jobs in Beijing research centre as tech job losses widen

US streaming giant Hulu is downsizing its research and development (R&D) centre in Beijing, cutting around 200 people, or 90 per cent of the staff at the facility, according to people familiar with the matter.

While Hulu's streaming service is not available in China, the company set up the Beijing R&D centre in 2007, one year before it started streaming content in the US market.

The employees at the Beijing facility are focused on developing online video playback technologies, as well as advertising and content recommendation algorithms. Before the downsizing, which was first reported by local media 21st Century Business Herald, it was the company's second-largest R&D facility after its US headquarters.

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Hulu's restructuring comes as Big Tech firms in the US, from Facebook-owner Meta Platforms to Microsoft, have been streamlining their operations to cut costs amid a gloomy macro environment.

Earlier this month, Meta Platforms announced a plan to cut more than 10,000 jobs this year. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that they should prepare for the possibility that "this new economic reality will continue for many years".

Similarly, US tech giants Microsoft and Google recently announced plans to each cut more than 10,000 jobs in an adjustment to brace for slower revenue growth.

Hulu's downsizing in Beijing shows how the current wave of US tech lay-offs has reached China's shores, at a time when the country's domestic Big Tech firms have slashed thousands of jobs in the face of regulatory crackdowns, tough competition and the adverse economic impact from last year's strict Covid-19 curbs.

The restructuring by Hulu, which is majority owned by The Walt Disney Co, has triggered concerns that more US companies might leave China and displace local employees amid the deteriorating diplomatic ties and growing hostility between Beijing and Washington.

Travel and accommodation booking service Airbnb was one of the early US tech firms to bid farewell to China. It pulled out last year amid the country's strict Covid restrictions, but also cited fierce competition from local players.

Last month, Microsoft denied a report that it was closing its research centre in Suzhou as part of its global restructuring plan, according to local media.

Hulu's lay-offs in Beijing also come as parent Disney recently announced a consolidation plan to axe more than 7,000 roles worldwide starting this week.

Hulu and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.