Disney’s streaming chief Mayer to become TikTok CEO

Walt Disney Co’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, will leave the entertainment and theme parks giant to become the chief executive officer of TikTok, the popular video app owned by China’s ByteDance Technology Co, the companies said on Monday.

About Kevin Mayer

Mayer led the successful launch of the Disney+ streaming service in November but in February was passed over as Disney’s new chief executive.

Mayer’s appointment will be effective June 1, when he will also become chief operating officer of ByteDance, the Chinese company said.

Speculation over Mayer’s future began swirling in February after Disney named Robert Chapek as chief executive officer. Mayer, who has a “loud and forceful” style, according to a former Disney executive, was seen as a dealmaker who had only recently been put in charge of a large profit-and-loss division. His relative lack of operating experience was a main reason he did not get the top job, the former executive said.

A ByteDance spokesman said the company had “no reservations” about Mayer’s operational experience. “Any company in our sector would be delighted to have him on board.”

Chapek praised Mayer in a statement on Monday, saying 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.”

Under Mayer’s leadership, Disney+ signed up more than 50 million subscribers in five months.

Disney named Rebecca Campbell, a 23-year company veteran, to replace Mayer as head of the direct-to-consumer and international division, which includes the streaming media units Disney is counting on to drive future growth.

About TikTok

TikTok, which allows users to create short videos with special effects, has become wildly popular with US teenagers doing viral challenges that pair dances with music clips from the app’s library. TikTok has hinted at ambitions to build a music streaming business, announcing in January that it was partnering with UK-based music rights agency Merlin to expand its musical selections.

A controversial spying App

Privacy concerns have been brought up regarding the app. In its privacy policy, TikTok lists that it collects usage information, IP addresses, a user’s mobile carrier, unique device identifiers, keystroke patterns, and location data, among other data.

ByteDance’s Chinese ownership, however, has also sparked concerns in Washington about TikTok’s handling of personal data. The company uses sophisticated artificial intelligence to make video recommendations based on users’ behavior on the app.

In 2019, the US government launched a national security review of ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly, which became TikTok under ByteDance’s leadership. Two senators have introduced a bill to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued phones. According to Wikipedia:

  • In November 2019, it was reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States opened an investigation into ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly. The same month, following a request by Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy agreed to assess the risks of using TikTok as a recruitment tool. Senator Josh Hawley introduced the National Security and Personal Data Protection Act to prohibit TikTok’s parent company and others from transferring personal data of Americans to China.
  • In December 2019, the United States Navy as well as the U.S. Army banned TikTok from all government-issued devices. The Transportation Security Administration also prohibited its personnel from posting on the platform for outreach purposes. Following its prohibition by the U.S. military, the Australian Defence Force also banned TikTok on its devices. The legislation was subsequently introduced in the U.S. Senate that would prohibit all federal employees from using or downloading TikTok.

To appease those concerns, ByteDance has stepped up efforts to separate TikTok from much of its Chinese businesses and has made several high-profile executive hires in recent months. It appointed former Microsoft intellectual property chief Erich Andersen as global general counsel in January, after hiring Vanessa Pappas, a veteran YouTube executive, to run its US operations last year.

Source: China Daily, Wikipedia

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