Kevin Mayer Kevin Mayer

In a sign of the shifting balance of influence in media and culture, Tiktok has hired away a key Disney executive to become its new CEO.

Kevin Mayer, 58, who was chairman of direct-to-consumer and international at The Walt Disney Company, will help to advance Tiktok’s ambitions as a mainstream media company.

Here are the details:

  • As well as heading the hugely popular video sharing platform, Mayer will also serve as chief operating officer of Bytedance, its Chinese owner. Both are newly created roles. He will start on June 1, and report to Bytedance founder and CEO Yiming Zhang.
  • Mayer joins the company as Tiktok’s global popularity booms. Last month, the app, best known for hosting dance challenges and other music-based short-form videos, reached two billion downloads. The company is expanding its U.S. presence by building a new hub in L.A.
  • At Disney, Mayer played a key role in the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox. In his role as direct-to-consumer chairman, he was in charge of the company’s streaming platforms, including ESPN+, Hulu, and India’s HotStar. He was also the chief architect of the Disney+ streaming service, which has proven to be the company’s sole bright spot in an otherwise challenging business year. As one of the company’s most powerful senior executives, Mayer had been considered a favorite to succeed Bob Iger as its CEO. In February, it was announced that dark horse candidate Bob Chapek, Disney’s former parks chief, had got the job instead. That sequence of events likely played a role in Mayer’s decision to leave Disney.
  • Mayer will be tasked with overseeing Bytedance’s and Tiktok’s global expansion, as well as taking charge of corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, and legal. He will lead music, gaming, and emerging businesses.
  • Mayer will also be charged with improving Tiktok’s reputation. The platform, which is widely used by minors, has been accused of violating child privacy laws in the U.S., and has come under fire for failing to remove toxic content. It is also the subject of perennial privacy and security fears, due to its Chinese ownership.
  • In a statement, Zhang said, “Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally. 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.”
  • Rebecca Campbell will replace Mayer at Disney. In her 23 years at the company, she has worked at ABC and other broadcasting stations; overseen theme parks; and served as president of Europe, Middle East, and Africa. In her new role, she will manage the expansion of the fast-growing Disney+ streaming service into new territories.

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