Who is Kevin Mayer: TikTok’s new CEO was the guy who built Disney+


In a shock announcement, the Walt Disney Company announced that it’s Chairman of its direct-to-consumer and international division Kevin Mayer was going to be leaving the company. The 58-year-old is joining TikTok as its CEO and will also become the COO of ByteDance the parent company for both Tiktok and music streaming app Resso. This comes after Mayer wasn’t selected to be Robert Iger’s successor as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company after the former resigned earlier than expected and handed the reigns to longtime Disney executive Bob Chapek. What many people don’t know is that Mayer who had a stint at Disney even in the 90s was the man responsible for Disney’s bold reinvention to becoming a content and streaming platform. The success of Disney+ which launched last November globally is what has kept Disney afloat during COVID19 as its other businesses have been devastated. 

Who is Kevin Mayer 

  • Mayer first started at Disney in 1993 as a manager in the strategic planning division after he had graduated from Harvard where he did an MBA in 1993. He, later on, did an MSEE from San Deigo State University and a BSME from MIT. 
  • He left Disney in 2000 when he was named the CEO of Playboy.com. 
  • He didn’t last long at Playboy, in 2000 within a few months he was appointed the chairman and CEO of Clear Channel Interactive, but here too his stint came to an end in 2001. 
  • In 2002 he joined L.E.K consulting as a partner and global head of media and entertainment practice. 
  • In 2005, when Rober Iger became the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Mayer was named as the executive vice president of the corporate strategy, business development and technology division in June of that year. This marks the end of a storied 15-year stint. 
  • Under Iger’s leadership, Mayer was the key lieutenant who executed the gigantic mergers and acquisitions of Pixar from Steve Jobs, Marvel Entertainment which has paved the way for the Marvel Expanded Universe (MCU) of movies and shows, LucasFilm from George Lucas for IPs like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Bamtech which is the underlying technology platform for Disney+ and 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch which didn’t only add more IP for the MCU, it gave Disney controlling control over Hulu and Hotstar in India. 
  • Basically, the idea of reinventing the Walt Disney company into an entertainment and streaming powerhouse was conceptualised and executed by Mayer. That’s why he was the man leading all the M&A and even acquired BAMTech, the underlying tech platform which even built the MLB app and HBO Go in the US.
  • Under Mayer’s leadership Disney+ launched across the world with 54.5 million subscribers as of May 2020. It is the home to all Walt Disney Company IP apart from having all MCU movies, Star Wars IP including new originals like the Mandalorian, Hulu and much more. Mayer’s unit also is in charge of ESPN+ in the US which is big for live sports and also HotStar in India which has the exclusive streaming rights for IPL. 
  • Many insiders believed that Mayer was going to be the successor to Robert Iger who even referenced him heavily in his autobiography the “Ride of a lifetime” which released last year. Iger was expected to step down in 2021, but with the successful launch of Disney+, he stepped down earlier this year and moved into the new role of the executive chairman. Surprisingly, he named Bob Chapek, the head of Disney’s theme parks and rides to become the CEO. 

What’s his role at TikTok 

  • In his role at Tiktok he is the CEO of the social network cum streaming service but also the chief operating officer of the parent organisation ByteDance which owns brands like Resso, Toutiao, BuzzVideo, Vigo Video. TikTok alone has over 800 million users worldwide with around 467 million users in India. It has been downloaded 1.5 billion times on the App Store and Google Play store making it the most influential social networking platform outside of anything that’s owned by Facebook on a global scale. Suffice to say, Mayer going there is a big deal, but it is also a big opportunity for him. 
  • Mayer is a great choice for TikTok as he was the face of Disney+. His presence will make TikTok a more palatable platform for Americans and could also fend off some regulatory concerns that the US may have regarding the platform. Mayer will help TikTok shed its Chinese origins which is proving to be increasingly problematic for firms of Chinese origin due to the coronavirus pandemic which originated in China. Mayer’s experience with digital technologies and content platforms also make him a great fit. 
  • Considering Mayer’s experience with digital platforms and M&A, you can expect TikTok and Bytedance to acquire a couple of upcoming digital platforms and even perhaps a record label considering its push for original content, vertical integration and an audio streaming platform in Resso. Alongside this you can expect a doubling down on live video, a focus on longer-form content which is of a higher quality to fix TikTok’s quality problem and celebrity collaborations. 
  • As Mayer moves into the role of TikTok’s CEO, Alex Zyu, moves back into the role of a VP for product development. You can also expect Mayer to run his unit from the states as he joins other high profile American hires like Erich Anderson who handled IP at Microsoft and former YouTube executive Vanessa Pappas.