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TikTok Has a New CEO — Unfortunately for Disney

Kevin Mayer, who oversaw the successful launch of Disney+ and ESPN+, will take the reins at TikTok next month. The video app’s hire of a seasoned media executive suggests it means business

Kevin Mayer Disney chief strategy officer Kevin Mayer visits the company's "accelerator" space in Glendale, Calif. Disney's accelerator program, designed for media and entertainment technology startups, provides each company up to a $120,000 investment and 15 weeks to incubate their ideas from Disney's mentors and networksDisney Startups, Glendale, USA

Kevin Mayer, formerly Disney's Chairman of Direct-To-Consumer and International.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/Shutterstock

Kevin Mayer, the longtime Disney executive who oversaw the launches of Disney+ and ESPN+, is leaving the company to take over as CEO of TikTok, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance announced on Monday.

Mayer’s appointment is a major development for TikTok, which now has an accomplished executive in the ultra-competitive video streaming space at the helm as the company looks to expand from a fledgling platform popular among Generation Z into a mainstream media powerhouse. In his role as CEO, Mayer has also been appointed chief operating officer of ByteDance. He will report directly to ByteDance CEO Yiming Zhang and will start June 1st. As COO, Mayer will take the lead on ByteDance’s music, gaming, Helo and emerging businesses along with heading TikTok, ByteDance said in its announcement.

As Disney’s Chairman of Direct-To-Consumer and International, Mayer oversaw the successful launch of Disney+, which surpassed 54.5 million paying subscribers in May, according to Disney. He was also responsible for launching ESPN+, and for integrating the latter two services with streaming giant Hulu; when Bob Iger ended his 15-year run at the helm of Disney earlier this year, Mayer had been one of the candidates rumored to take over the top spot. (Disney ultimately named Bob Chapek CEO.)

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to join the amazing team at ByteDance,” Mayer said in a statement. “Like everyone else, I’ve been impressed watching the company build something incredibly rare in TikTok – a creative, positive online global community – and I’m excited to help lead the next phase of ByteDance’s journey as the company continues to expand its breadth of products across every region of the world.”

Disney veteran Rebecca Campbell will replace Mayer, the company announced with Mayer’s departure.

“(Mayer) 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,” said Chapek. “Having worked alongside Kevin for many years on the senior management team, I am enormously grateful to him for his support and friendship and wish him tremendous success going forward.”

TikTok has seen a major surge in users since the pandemic hit the U.S., with the app getting 315 million downloads across the iOS and android app stores in 2020’s first financial quarter according to mobile app data analysis group Sensor Tower. That’s the most downloads for one app in a single quarter, Sensor Tower said.

TikTok has become a significant player in the music industry both for discovering new artists and driving songs to hit status, with the platform contributing to the massive success of Lil Nas X’s record-breaking “Old Town Road” and more recently with chart-toppers like Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Megan thee Stallion’s “Savage,” which have all been featured in millions of TikTok videos.

“Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally,” Zhang said in a statement. “As one of the world’s most accomplished entertainment executives, Kevin is incredibly well placed to take ByteDance’s portfolio of products to the next level. I look forward to working very closely with Kevin on our global development and the next chapter of the ByteDance story.”

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