Disney’s streaming wunderkind joins TikTok

Business & Technology

Kevin Mayer, who transformed Disney into a streaming powerhouse, is leaving to become the CEO of TikTok, a Chinese social video app that has surged in popularity and drawn scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers.

Kevin Mayer, who transformed Disney into a streaming powerhouse, is leaving to become the CEO of TikTok, a Chinese social video app that has surged in popularity and drawn scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers. Mayer will also be the COO of ByteDance, the Chinese conglomerate that owns TikTok.

Mayer was chairman of the direct-to-consumer and international divisions of the Walt Disney Company. Now, says Zhāng Yīmíng 张一鸣, founder and CEO of ByteDance, “Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally…I look forward to working very closely with Kevin on our global development and the next chapter of the ByteDance story.”

TikTok allows users to create short videos with music and special effects, and its usage has surged globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. The TikTok app has been downloaded 1.9 billion times worldwide, and in the first quarter of this year, it was downloaded more than any other app in the world, according to Sensor Tower, an app market intelligence firm.

ByteDance has created a portfolio of apps, including dual versions of TikTok, one for China’s censored digital market (Douyin) and another for the rest of the world. When Zhang founded the ByteDance conglomerate in 2012, he said the company’s mission was to “combine the power of AI with the growth of mobile internet to revolutionize the way people consume and receive information.”

The company has made other high-profile hires in recent months, including veteran YouTube executive Vanessa Pappas, to help TikTok compete with American social media giants Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. Snapchat added TikTok to its list of competitors in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year.

Mayer begins his new role at TikTok on June 1.