Disney loses top streaming exec to TikTok

Disney Plus
Kevin Mayer is leaving Disney after helping get Disney+, the company’s new streaming video service that launched in November, off to a roaring start. (Disney)

Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International business, is leaving the company to become CEO of social video platform TikTok.

Starting next month, Mayer will begin serving as chief operating officer of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, and will report to CEO Yiming Zhang. In addition to overseeing functions including corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, moderation, and legal, Mayer will also lead music, gaming, emerging businesses and Helo, one of ByteDance’s other social media companies.

“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,” said Mayer in a statement.

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Disney named Rebecca Campbell as the new chairman of the streaming business. Campbell has been with Disney for 23 years and most recently served as president of Disneyland Resort.

Mayer is inheriting an extremely popular platform in TikTok, which last year reported 1 billion active users and this year said it topped 2 billion app downloads globally.

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He’s leaving Disney after helping get Disney+, the company’s new streaming video service that launched in November, off to a roaring start. Earlier this month, Disney reported its first quarter earnings and said that Disney+ now has 54.5 million paid subscribers worldwide. The service attracted 10 million sign-ups one day after its initial U.S. launch on November 12 and sparked more growth this year when it launched internationally in eight Western European countries and India, where it is offered in conjunction with the existing Hotstar service. Disney said Hotstar already accounts for approximately 8 million of Disney+’s paid subscribers.

Disney+ will begin rolling out in Japan in June, followed the Nordics, Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal in September, and Latin America toward the end of 2020.

Disney’s streaming business also includes Hulu, which has 32.1 million total subscribers (28.8 million SVOD only and 3.3 million live TV + SVOD), and ESPN+, which has 7.9 million paid subscribers.

As Disney+ appears to be growing ahead of schedule, many of Disney’s core businesses like theme parks and studio entertainment are under immense pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic.