Tiktok announced Tuesday it has hired Kevin Mayer, formerly The Walt Disney Company’s top streaming executive, as the chief executive officer of the popular short video app.
Why it matters: The company is intensifying its efforts to address concerns around its Chinese ownership. Tiktok’s Chinese parent, Beijing-based Bytedance, has stepped up efforts to separate the app from its Chinese operations by hiring executives in the US, including cybersecurity veteran Roland Cloutier, the chief information security officer who began in April, and former Youtube executive Vanessa Pappas, who began running its US operations last year.
- Mayer was also given a high-level position at Bytedance, indicating that the Chinese headquarters retains tight control over the app.
Details: Bytedance appointed Mayer as its chief operating officer and Tiktok’s chief executive officer, the company said in a statement Monday.
- Mayer will report to Bytedance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming and will lead the company’s global expansion. He will also be responsible for Bytedance’s corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, content moderation, and legal, the company said.
- Mayer resigned from Disney on Monday and his new roles at Bytedance will begin June 1.
- Alex Zhu, the founder of Tiktok’s predecessor Musical.ly and current president of the app, will become Bytedance’s vice president of product and strategy, according to the statement.
“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.”
— Zhang Yiming, Bytedance founder and CEO
Context: Mayer served as the chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International subsidiary that includes several streaming businesses. He led the global launch in November of its Disney+ streaming service, which amassed more than 50 million subscribers in five months.
- Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups with a market cap estimated at around $100 billion, is vigorously expanding its presence in markets outside of China. Zhang, the company founder, took over overseas operations in March.
- Tiktok has faced increasing scrutiny in the US over its Chinese ties. Several US lawmakers have questioned whether the app, which has reached 172 million downloads in the country according to research firm Sensor Tower, poses potential national security risks.
- Tiktok said March it would set up a content moderation transparency center in its US office to address concerns over its security and privacy.