Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer, who was one of the top candidates for Disney’s top job earlier this year, has been named chief executive of the popular short-form video app TikTok.
Mayer, who oversaw the launch of the Disney+ streaming service, will start at TikTok on June 1. He will also serve as the chief operating officer of ByteDance, the Chinese tech conglomerate that owns TikTok.
Rebecca Campbell, a 23-year Disney veteran who most recently served as president of Disneyland Resort, will succeed Mayer as chairman of the company’s direct-to-consumer and international business.
Mayer is joining TikTok at a time when the app’s popularity has exploded in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. At the end of April, the app passed 2 billion downloads globally—just five months after it hit 1.5 billion downloads—according to mobile app measurement firm Sensor Tower. TikTok’s first quarter of 2020 saw the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter, garnering more than 315 million across Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play, the firm reported.
TikTok’s story over the past few months hasn’t just been about explosive growth, however. The app’s success has been clouded by concerns over privacy and censorship, and its growing influence in the United States as a Chinese-owned platform. U.S. politicians have called for formal investigations into TikTok in response to national security concerns.
Mayer is quite a coup for TikTok. He was viewed by many within Hollywood as the favorite to succeed former Disney CEO Bob Iger (who remains at Disney as executive chairman, leading the company’s creative endeavors). Mayer gained a reputation for his dealmaking, playing an important role in helping Disney acquire Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and online video company BAMTech, which creates the streaming technology utilized by Disney’s online platforms. Given the importance of streaming for Disney’s future, Mayer was seen by many as a natural choice.
But the 58-year-old was ultimately passed over for the job when Iger abruptly resigned in February, with Disney instead naming parks and cruises chief Bob Chapek as CEO.
“Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years,” Chapek said in a statement Monday. “He has done a masterful job of overseeing and growing our portfolio of streaming services, while bringing together the creative and technological assets required to launch the hugely successful Disney+ globally.”
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