Kevin Mayer will step down as the chief of Disney’s streaming division and become CEO of the video-sharing sensation TikTok. The app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is extremely popular among teens and college students, and has enjoyed an immense surge in participation since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Storied Career In Entertainment
Mayer’s jump from Disney, a family entertainment institution, to TikTok, the young streaming disruptor, is not the first time he’s made a risky leap. Beginning his career in business development at Disney, Mayer left the wholesome brand in 2000 to become CEO of Playboy.com, before returning to Disney in 2005.
Last fall, Mayer made waves in the entertainment world by spearheading the launch of Disney+, the successful at-home streaming service. When Disney CEO Bob Iger stepped down from that position in February, many assumed Mayer would be the most logical choice of a successor, but the position ultimately went to Robert Chapek, previously the head of Disney theme parks and consumer products. The apparent snub has led to speculation that Mayer would leave Disney.
TikTok’s Strategic Hire
TikTok currently allows users to create and share 15, 30, or 60-second videos, but it sees its current service as just the beginning. ByteDance is already looking to expand the TikTok brand into the world of music streaming, and with Mayer’s experience in the streaming landscape, he was an obvious choice to lead the next phase of the company’s growth.
Another reason ByteDance wanted to bring Mayer into the fold has to do with a push to “westernize” its leadership and lift its image in the United States. The Chinese-owned TikTok has come under fire from US officials over possible breaches of privacy. After ByteDance originally acquired TikTok, fears about the Chinese government’s control over in-app data prompted a national security review in the US. Several American lawmakers have even proposed legislation to ban politicians from using TikTok out of privacy concerns.
But as TikTok expands its reach in the States, it has also brought on a handful of American tech experts to steer the ship, and bolster its image. Vanesssa Pappas, a YouTube executive, and Erich Andersen, a Microsoft executive, both joined the TikTok team in recent months.
Mayer will officially become CEO of TikTok and Chief Operating Officer of ByteDance on June 1st. Rebecca Campbell, a two-decade veteran of Disney, will assume Mayer’s former role, taking the reins of the ever-important Disney+ service.