The Walt Disney Co.’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, resigned on Monday and will become the chief executive of TikTok, the app for making and sharing short videos that has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayer, 58, will also serve as chief operating officer of ByteDance, the Chinese conglomerate that owns TikTok.
As Americans have stayed home during the pandemic, a growing number have turned to TikTok to help pass the time. New users in the United States downloaded the app about 11 million times in March, nearly twice the total in December, according to Sensor Tower, a company that tracks app usage data.Mayer’s departure from Disney is not entirely a surprise. Disney’s board of directors passed over him earlier this year when it was looking for a successor for Robert A. Iger, who abruptly stepped down in February. (Iger remains executive chairman, with a focus on the creative process.)
Many people in Hollywood and on Wall Street had viewed Mayer, 58, as the logical internal candidate because the future of Disney rests on its ability to transform itself into a streaming titan. The top job, however, went to Bob Chapek, the lower-profile chairman of Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses.
“Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years,” Chapek said in a statement. “Having worked alongside Kevin for many years on the senior management team, I am enormously grateful to him for his support and friendship.”
For the last two years, Mayer has served as chairman for a Disney division called Direct-to-Consumer & International. The international part of his job includes cable television, with more than 350 channels in 170 countries. His division has also housed ad sales — worldwide — for all of Disney’s media properties, including ABC and ESPN.