TikTok’s parent company ByteDance announced on Monday that The Walt Disney Company’s former top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, would take on the role of chief operating officer and chief executive officer of TikTok.
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Mayer, who served as the chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International divisions, oversaw the launch of Disney+ last fall, which has grown to surpass 50 million subscribers. He was a candidate to replace Bob Iger as Disney’s CEO but was passed over by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Bob Chapek in February.
Mayer resigned from Disney on Monday and is set to begin his new roles at ByteDance on June 1st. He’ll report directly to ByteDance founder and CEO, Zhang Yiming, and will be responsible for corporate development, sales, and of course, security, content moderation and legal affairs for always-controversial TikTok, as well as several of ByteDance’s other apps internationally.
Over the past 18 months, Beijing-based streaming giant ByteDance has been the subject of intense scrutiny by American officials who believe that ByteDance’s Chinese ties pose a threat to US national security. In March, ByteDance released extensive details in its plan to establish a transparency center and recruit a team of experts in the US to ease concerns over privacy and content moderation practices.
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Mayer joins cybersecurity veteran and TikTok CIO Roland Cloutier and former YouTube executive Vanessa Pappas to become the third US executive to join ByteDance’s team, a strategy ByteDance hopes will allow TikTok to distance itself from its Chinese origins.
The addition comes at a good time for TikTok, which has experienced a pandemic-fueled spike in daily usage and total users as people in lockdown struggle to kill time. Zhang seems to believe in Mayer, describing him in a statement on Monday as “one of the world’s most accomplished entertainment executives” and someone who can take “ByteDance’s portfolio of products to the next level.”
It remains to be seen if Mayer’s reputation in the US could be the olive branch ByteDance needs to win back favor with American lawmakers.
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