Bytedance poaches Disney’s Kevin Mayer to become TikTok’s new CEO

We learned in January that Bytedance was on the hunt for a US-based CEO for short-form video platform TikTok. Now, the search is over.

Kevin Mayer, Disney’s highest-ranking streaming executive, has quit the House of Mouse to take up the position.

From June 1, Mayer will take up the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ByteDance, in addition to serving as CEO of TikTok.

According to a Bytedance press release, Los Angeles-based Mayer’s responsibility at TikTok will see him “lead the rapidly growing platform as it continues to build its global community of creators, users, and brands”.

Alex Zhu, the current President of TikTok, will transition to ByteDance VP of Product & Strategy, where, says Bytedance, he will “focus on his primary passion overseeing strategy and product design”.


Mayer (pictured) leaves behind his role as Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International at Disney – a position in which he led the rollout of video streaming service Disney+, which surpassed 50m paying subscribers in April, five months after launch.

Additionally, Mayer led Disney’s other direct-to-consumer businesses, including Hulu, ESPN+, and Hotstar, as well as overseeing Disney’s international operations, global ad sales, and global content sales.

As the head of TikTok, Mayer will run a platform that has become a go-to outlet for breaking new artists in the music business. The TikTok app has now been downloaded over 2bn times globally, and 500m times in the five months to end of April.

However, the service has also left much of the music publishing community disgruntled, with the US-based National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) threatening to sue TikTok/Bytedance earlier this year for an alleged lack of licensing.

“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.”

Kevin Mayer, Bytedance (pictured)

Mayer will also have to deal with US national security concerns, with members of US Congress questioning whether Bytedance could use the app to obtain private user data.

Mayer will report directly to ByteDance Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Yiming Zhang.

Yiming said, “Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally. As one of the world’s most accomplished entertainment executives, Kevin is incredibly well placed to take ByteDance’s portfolio of products to the next level. I look forward to working very closely with Kevin on our global development and the next chapter of the ByteDance story.”

Mayer commented: “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to join the amazing team at ByteDance. 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.

“On a personal note, I’m thankful to the entire Disney team for the tremendous accomplishments we achieved together. I’m especially grateful to Bob Iger for his visionary leadership and mentorship over many years, and to Bob Chapek whom I greatly admire. As I begin a new chapter, I’m humbled by the trust Yiming and the Board have placed in me as we move forward with a shared vision of how to scale ByteDance’s growth.”


Kelly Zhang and Lidong Zhang will continue as CEO and Chairman of ByteDance China, respectively, reporting to Yiming Zhang, as ByteDance’s global CEO.

They manage a range of products, including Douyin (the Chinese equivalent of TikTok), plus Toutiao, and Xigua, in addition to their duties leading the business and operational teams in China.

TikTok’s national and regional leaders will remain in their roles with their current responsibilities, reporting in to Mayer, who will be responsible for the global business.Music Business Worldwide

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