TikTok's new CEO is Disney's former streaming leader

Kevin Mayer could help sustain TikTok's growth.

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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 23: Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International division of The Walt Disney Company Kevin Mayer took part today in the Disney+ Showcase at Disney’s D23 EXPO 2019 in Anaheim, Calif.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

TikTok may have a solution to keeping its momentum going: hire a leader with a knack for streaming video. Parent company ByteDance has hired Kevin Mayer, Disney’s chairman for streaming services like Disney+ and Hulu, as TikTok’s CEO. He’ll also serve as ByteDance’s COO and will be responsible for fostering the “global development” of the larger company as well as music, gaming and other fields. Mayer will step into the role on June 1st.

The New York Times noted that Mayer had been in the running to replace Bob Iger as Disney’s CEO, but wasn’t in a rush to leave despite Bob Chapek getting the nod.

Mayer played a key role in Disney’s internet strategy over the years. He worked on associated sites like Go.com and ESPN.com, but most recently rose to prominence as the overseer for the Disney+ launch. The service has enjoyed early success with over 50 million subscribers in less than half a year (some of them due to a link with India’s Hotstar). And right now, it’s a lifeline — with most movie theaters closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s one of the few ways Disney has to distribute new movies to the public.

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It’s not clear how the new chief executive will shape TikTok, although his experience with streaming entertainment will come in handy. He’s certainly arriving at an opportune time. Sensor Tower has determined that people downloaded TikTok 11 million times in March as lockdowns began in earnest, or nearly twice as many as in December. There’s plenty of demand — Mayer’s trick is to sustain that growth once it’s safer to venture out in public.

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