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Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer departs to become TikTok CEO

Executive behind ESPN+ and Disney+ replaced by Rebecca Campbell.

19 May 2020 Sam Carp

Getty Images

Kevin Mayer, the Walt Disney Company’s top streaming executive, is leaving the company to become chief executive of short-form video app TikTok.

Mayer, who first joined Disney in 1993 before returning in 2005, will also serve as chief operating officer of ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.

The American was appointed to lead Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international business upon its formation in 2018, first overseeing the launch of the ESPN+ sports streaming subscription platform before rolling out the Disney+ entertainment service at the end of last year.

He is also credited with playing a key role in the company’s 2017 acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which led to the integration of Hulu, another entertainment-focused over-the-top (OTT) business in which Disney now owns a majority stake.

Mayer, who was named as one of SportsPro’s ten influencers for 2020, had previously been tipped as a possible replacement for former Disney chief executive Bob Iger, before Bob Chapek was appointed as the 69-year-old’s successor in February.

Long-serving Disney executive Rebecca Campbell has been named as Mayer’s replacement and will be tasked with overseeing the company’s streaming business globally. 

“Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years, most recently as head of our direct-to-consumer business,” said Chapek. “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+ 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.”

TikTok, which allows users to create 15-second clips with music playing in the background, has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being launched in China in 2016 and has become even more popular after being made available in the US from late 2018.

According to data published in April by Sensor Tower, TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times globally on the App Store and Google Play. Adoption of the platform has also been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, generating the most downloads ever in a quarter during the first three months of 2020. 

“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.”

Commenting on his time at Disney, Mayer added: “I am very proud of what our extraordinarily talented direct-to-consumer and international team has accomplished in creating and delivering a world-class portfolio of streaming services, particularly Disney+.

“It’s truly been a privilege for me to be part of the iconic Walt Disney Company, and I am enormously grateful to Bob Iger for his trust and confidence, and to Bob Chapek and his senior management team for their collaboration and support over the years.”

Disney has also announced the appointment of Josh D’Amaro as chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a position that has been vacant since Chapek moved up to his new role.

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