Kevin Mayer, who ran the video streaming business at Disney, will however start serving as the chief operating officer of ByteDance, Chinese-owned holding company TikTok. Mayer was seen as a frontrunner at Disney to get the top position but was passed over earlier this year to succeed Bob Iger in favour of Robert Chapek.
The pandemic has seriously weakened Disney as Covid-19 forced it to abandon its profitable parks and cruise ship companies. Iger took back some control of the business and remains the executive chairman while Disney scrambled in March to compile a $6 billion debt bid. It has laid off staff and cut wages with Chapek deciding to halve his pay and Iger promising to give up one completely
Before lockdown, TikTok was already a major hit and has seen its success grow since. According to data from SensorTower which tracks downloads of devices, it was downloaded more than 315 million times in the first quarter. That number reflects the most downloads SensorTower has ever tallied up in a single fifth.
At TikTok Mayer will face some of the difficulties ahead. The assumption that its Chinese ownership makes it a security concern has been an off-and-on-again subject of criticism. And last week a coalition of 20 advocacy organizations lodged a lawsuit with the FTC saying it had not lived up to an arrangement signed with regulators last year to help protect children using its app.
He is replacing Alex Zhu, one of Musicly ‘s founders, the China-based app purchased by ByteDance in 2017 and turned into TikTok. Zhu had made efforts to do what Mayer is going to have to do now: convince America that TikTok is not a menace.