Disney, today, announced that Kevin Mayer, who launched Disney+ for the Mouse House just last November, is leaving Disney to run TikTok. Mayer will be CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance, TikTok's parent company. Despite successfully launching Disney's streamer and growing it at a record pace to over 50 million members, Mayer was passed over as the successor to Bob Iger, a job that went to Bob Chapek right before the pandemic struck.
In a statement, Bob Chapek said, "Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years, most recently as head of our direct-to-consumer business. 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."
Speaking of Mayer's successor, Chapek said, "As we look to grow our direct-to-consumer business and continue to expand into new markets, I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort than Rebecca. She is an exceptionally talented and dedicated leader with a wealth of experience in media, operations and international businesses. She played a critical role in the launch of Disney+ globally while overseeing the EMEA region, and her strong business acumen and creative vision will be invaluable in taking our successful and well-established streaming services into the future."
Kevin Mayer will be replaced by Rebecca Campbell, who will head Disney+ going forward. Kevin Mayer had this to say about moving on and his successor, "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+. Rebecca was a critical member of the DTCI team from its inception, and I am certain the business is in great hands and will continue to expand and thrive under her expert leadership. 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."
Campbell previously served as President of the Disneyland Resort, in the company's parks division. She will now become the leader of the streaming business in a time of immense competition with Netflix and Amazon becoming very active in production and winning over stay-at-home audiences during the pandemic. She'll face a very different challenge compared to the company's parks, which face their own very serious challenges in the face of the health crisis.
Mayer will now take the helm of the immensely popular TikTok video sharing social network that is part of Chinese company, ByteDance. The site was founded in 2012 and is used to create short comedy, dance, lip-sync, karoke and other videos. TikTok merged with musical.ly in August 2018 and became the most downloaded mobile app in the U.S. by October 2018, the first Chinese app to reach this milestone. In 2019, TikTok was noted as the 7th most downloaded mobile app of the decade.
In a recent article for Business Insider, Barstool Sports' CEO, Erika Nardini, said "Every trend that you're seeing is originating on TikTok. The creativity and just the personality and the weirdness... It's a unique format. I think that's partly why TikTok is exploding." Of course, the last major social platform to earn these sorts of accolades was SnapChat, which was heralded, just a few years ago, as the heir apparent to storytelling and the potential new development launchpad for Hollywood. Not long after, Snap, Inc., SnapChat's parent company, saw its stock tank to a mere fraction of its IPO price as usage began to taper and celebrities started to shun it. Snap has, since, had a resurgence - with users, media brands and advertisers - strengthened further by the global pandemic as consumers look to every screen to occupy newfound free-time.
Mayer is undoubtedly eying the potential for an IPO, since ByteDance is already too likely too large for acquisition by all but the biggest tech players (think: Apple, Google, Facebook or Microsoft). With his pedigree, Mayer could easily steer the Chinese social phenom into broader content and advertising markets and bolster its economic potential. Unless, of course, COVID-induced tensions between the U.S. and China, which are adding to already tense U.S. China tech relations and further hampering Chinese tech giant Huawei, cast a shadow over TikTok's glow. This was first reported at The Wrap.