TikTok's new CEO is a top Disney exec who launched Disney Plus

Kevin Mayer spearheaded the launch of Disney's streaming service, one of last year's biggest and most successful product launches.

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3 min read

Kevin Mayer has been a longtime Disney exec, one whom many put on the short list of candidates to become Disney's CEO after the successful launch of Disney Plus. 

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TikTok's CEO will be Kevin Mayer starting June 1, installing the high-level Disney executive who launched Disney Plus to spearhead the popular but controversial video-sharing app. TikTok, a social app for sharing quirky videos, has exploded in popularity in recent years, but the China-based service has bumped up against questions in the US and elsewhere about privacy, child safety, user data and content moderation

On Monday, TikTok-owner ByteDance said it named Mayer the CEO of TikTok and the chief operating officer of ByteDance as a whole, reporting to ByteDance's founder and CEO, Yiming Zhang.

"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," Mayer said in a statement, adding a note of thanks to Disney, its chairman, Bob Iger, and its newly installed CEO, Bob Chapek

Mayer was widely considered to be on the short list of executives to potentially succeed Iger as Disney's CEO, especially after the success of Disney Plus. Chapek was named Disney's CEO in late February. 

Disney announced later Monday that Rebecca Campbell would succeed Mayer as the head of the Disney's direct-to-consumer and international division. Campbell has worked at Disney for 23 years and most recently was the president of Disneyland Resort. 

"Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years," Chapek said in a statement. "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 Plus globally. 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."

Mayer led the Disney division that developed and launched Disney Plus in November. The service has been a hit, spawning cultural phenoms like Baby Yoda and ramping up to more than 50 million subscribers in less than six months. One analyst called it "one of the greatest product launches of all time."

TikTok is known for short quirky videos, including lip-syncing and dance-offs. Its popularity in the US started to grow after ByteDance acquired the app Musical.ly and rebranded it as TikTok in 2018.

The user base for TikTok has continued to rise as more people stay at home during the novel coronavirus outbreak. As of April, the app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times from the Apple App Store and Google Play store, according to data from analytics firm Sensor Tower.

TikTok, though, has been plagued by a number of scandals, including allegations that it secretly gathers user data and sends it to China. Last year, the US government reportedly launched a national security review of TikTok. Government agencies such as the US Transportation Security Administration stopped using TikTok videos in its social media posts. And the US Army and Navy have banned the app from government devices.

In response to some of these privacy concerns, TikTok said it would open a new transparency center in its office in Los Angeles this month as part of its effort to "deepen" its engagement with users, lawmakers and the public. 

Watch this: YouTube at work on TikTok rival, Zoom's privacy risks