The Walt Disney Company’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, resigned on Monday to become the chief executive of TikTok the app for making and sharing short videos that has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Mayer, 58, will also serve as chief operating officer of ByteDance, the Chinese conglomerate that owns TikTok. “I was happy with my job at Disney,” Mr. Mayer said by phone. “The magnitude of this opportunity was just something I couldn’t pass up.” He cited gaming and music as two expansion possibilities. (He sounded considerably less eager to post TikToks of himself.)

TikTok’s app has been downloaded about 1.9 billion times worldwide, including 172 million downloads in the United States, according to Sensor Tower, an app data firm. And its surging popularity has increased during the pandemic. In the first quarter of this year, it was downloaded 307 million times, more than any other app in the world, according to Sensor Tower data.

That popularity has made TikTok by far the biggest digital success for a Chinese-owned company in the Western world. As a result, it has faced deep distrust across the U.S. government. Several government agencies, including nearly all branches of the military, have barred employees from downloading or using the app. In March, Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, proposed legislation to bar any federal employee from using the app.

Mayer earned a reputation at Disney as being the company’s top deal maker. He spearheaded the company’s acquisition of BAMTech, which makes the streaming technology that powers the company’s online video services.

He was also instrumental in Disney’s acquisitions of Lucasfilm (and the Star Wars franchise), Pixar, Marvel and 21st Century Fox over the last decade and a half. All of those properties have given Disney’s content portfolio a huge boost, and resulted in several blockbuster films, helping Disney dominate the box office in recent years. Disney veteran Rebecca Campbell will take over as Disney’s head of streaming, the company announced in a news release. Campbell is a 23-year veteran of the Disney company and has held leadership roles across Disney’s media, international and parks businesses. Most recently she served as president of Disneyland Resort.

Todd Horwitz Chief Strategist
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