LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Company’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, resigned on Monday and will 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.
As Americans have stayed home during the pandemic, a growing number have turned to TikTok to help pass the time. New users in the United States downloaded the app about 11 million times in March, nearly twice the total in December, according to Sensor Tower, a company that tracks app usage data.
But national security concerns about TikTok’s growing influence have been raised by members of Congress, who have also questioned if there is a risk that the app could share user data with its Chinese parent company.
Mr. Mayer’s departure from Disney is not entirely a surprise. Disney’s board of directors passed over him earlier this year when it was looking for a successor for Robert A. Iger, who abruptly stepped down in February. (Mr. Iger remains executive chairman, with a focus on the creative process.) Many people in Hollywood and on Wall Street had viewed Mr. Mayer, 58, as the logical internal candidate because the future of Disney rests on its ability to transform itself into a streaming titan. The top job, however, went to Bob Chapek, the lower-profile chairman of Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses.
“Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years,” Mr. Chapek said in a statement. “Having worked alongside Kevin for many years on the senior management team, I am enormously grateful to him for his support and friendship.”
Despite being passed over, Mr. Mayer had indicated that he was not in a hurry to leave. There is no business more important to Disney than streaming, and Mr. Mayer has relished working on services like Disney Plus, which rolled out in November and now has about 55 million subscribers — a runaway hit. Disney Plus will arrive in parts of Asia and Latin America later this year. Hulu, which has about 30 million subscribers, and Hotstar, the leading streaming service in India, have also been part of Mr. Mayer’s portfolio.
For the last two years, Mr. Mayer has served as chairman for a Disney division called Direct-to-Consumer & International. The international part of his job includes cable television, with more than 350 channels in 170 countries. His division has also housed ad sales — worldwide — for all of Disney’s media properties, including ABC and ESPN.
Mr. Mayer is best known as Disney’s longtime deals maven. Before he was promoted to run the direct-to-consumer and international division, he served as Disney’s chief strategy officer, helping to orchestrate the purchases of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, most of 21st Century Fox, and BamTech, a technology company that specializes in streaming video.
Mr. Mayer joined Disney in 1993 before leaving in 2000 to run Playboy.com. He soon returned to Disney to work on Go.com, a web portal that eventually failed, and other Disney websites, including ESPN.com, before moving to strategic planning.
Disney named Rebecca Campbell as Mr. Mayer’s successor. She has been ascending quickly. Just last year, she was named president of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. Before that, Ms. Campbell had a senior leadership role at Disney’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operation; she worked on the launch plan for Disney Plus. Disney also named a new chairman for theme parks and consumer products: Josh D’Amaro, who was previously president of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Jack Nicas contributed reporting from Oakland, Calif.