Disney’s streaming chief Kevin Mayer to become TikTok CEO

The logo of TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

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.

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.

TikTok, which allows users to create short videos with special effects, has become wildly popular with U.S. 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 U.K.-based music rights agency Merlin to expand its musical selections.

ByteDance’s Chinese ownership, however, has 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 November, the U.S. 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.

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 U.S. operations last year.

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 onboard.”

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.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.