Disney Streaming Boss Kevin Mayer Jumps to China’s TikTok as CEO

In a surprise move, Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer & International unit, is leaving to become COO of the corporate parent of Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, effective June 1.

Mayer, who has spent 25 years at Disney, will report directly to Yiming Zhang, founder/CEO of ByteDance. He will be charged with driving the global development at ByteDance, as well as overseeing corporate functions, including corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, moderation, and legal.

In his role as COO, Mayer will lead music, gaming, Helo, emerging businesses, and will also serve as CEO of TikTok, leading the rapidly growing platform as it continues to build its global community of creators, users, and brands.

“Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally,” Zhang said in a statement.

As chairman of Disney’s revamped home entertainment unit, consumer products and international business, Mayer oversaw rollout of Disney+, the company’s flagship subscription streaming video service. Additionally, Mayer led the company’s other direct-to-consumer businesses, including Hulu, ESPN+, and India’s Hotstar, as well as overseeing Disney’s international operations, global ad sales, and global content sales.

“Like everyone else, I’ve been impressed watching [ByteDance] build something incredibly rare in TikTok — a creative, positive online global community,” Mayer said.

The executive said he is grateful to Bob Iger for his visionary leadership and mentorship over many years, and Bob Chapek, whom Mayer said he greatly admires.

Alex Zhu, the current president of TikTok, will transition to ByteDance VP of product and strategy, where he will focus on his primary passion overseeing strategy and product design.

Kelly Zhang and Lidong Zhang will continue to lead the business as CEO and Chairman of ByteDance China, respectively, reporting to Yiming Zhang, as ByteDance’s global CEO. They manage a range of products, including Douyin, Toutiao, and Xigua, in addition to their duties leading the business and operational teams in China.

In the management restructuring, TikTok said its national and regional management leaders would remain in their roles with their current responsibilities, reporting to Mayer.

Disney+ French Launch Delayed to April 7

The Walt Disney Co. March 21 confirmed it is delaying the previously planned March 24 launch of Disney+ subscription streaming video service in France to April 7. The SVOD service will bow as scheduled in other European countries on March 24.

The move came after the CEO of French telecom Orange — one of the country’s largest ISPs — suggested Disney delay the launch. The company is also joining Netflix, Amazon, YouTube reducing streaming speeds 25% to limit the service’s impact on local and national high-speed networks.

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In France, deaths related to the virus have risen to 562, according to the French Health Ministry. There are more than 14,400 infections, with 6,172 in hospitals and 1,525 of them in intensive care.

“In line with Disney’s longstanding commitment to act responsibly, we are responding to the request of European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International at Disney, said in a statement. “In anticipation of high consumer demand for Disney+, we are proactively instituting measures to lower our overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25% in all of the markets launching Disney+ on March 24.”

Breton earlier in the week had called on streaming platforms, telecom operators and Internet users having a joint responsibility during the pandemic that has infected more than 300,000 people globally and 13,000 deaths.

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“[We need] to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet during the battle against the virus propagation,” Breton said.

Disney+ Finding Tech Issues at Launch

Disney’s high-profile Nov. 12 launch of a branded subscription streaming service in the United States ran into technical issues out of the gate.

There were reportedly more than 7,000 connection problems cited on the Downdetector.com site before 7:30a.m. ET. The initial glitches underscore the differences between test launches in Holland and widespread access in the U.S.

On the service’s help link, Disney said the consumer demand for Disney+ had exceeded expectations.

“We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience,” Disney said in a post.

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“There are always technology glitches,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming business, told a media event last week. “You can always improve the technical performance of any service like this and we’ll continue to do so. We haven’t solved everything by any means.”

Regardless, Disney said Disney+ tests in Holland had been successful.

“We wanted to have a sufficient number of users so that we could see how the app performed, what technology glitches might exist,” Mayer said.

Disney said it has teams monitoring the service 24/7 to iron out any issues on the $6.99 monthly platform.

Janice Marinelli Leaving The Walt Disney Company

In a surprise move, Janice Marinelli July 16 announced that she will step down from her role as president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) segment, ending a 34-year career at the media giant.

Marinelli previously headed Disney’s home entertainment operations, which she continued to oversee in her latest role, which she assumed in December 2018.

Industry sources had anticipated a big announcement from Disney on July 15, with speculation that Marinelli on that date would announce the new home entertainment team behind both Disney and 20th Century Fox product. Longtime Fox home entertainment chief Mike Dunn left shortly after the March 20 completion of the merger, while James Finn, one of the division’s two top marketers, announced his departure earlier this month. Julia Howe, the other top home entertainment marketing executive, is still there, sources said.

“It has been an honor to work for this company and a privilege to work with so many outstanding professionals,” Marinelli said in a statement. “I’ve observed many changes in our industry over the years, and it is changing at a speed never seen before. While I have been considering this decision for some time, I was committed to seeing our team through the acquisition and integration of 21st Century Fox. Now that we’ve reached these important milestones, I believe the time is right for me to step down.”

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At the December 2017 Video Hall of Fame ceremony in Beverly Hills, Marinelli drew solid applause — and more than a few chuckles — when she advised her fellow home entertainment executives to “just keep swimming.” As Media Play News observed at the time, “The line, from the hit Disney film Finding Nemo, seemed to resonate with the several hundred execs in the room, many of whom have been contending with increasingly choppy seas for the better part of a decade.”

Kevin Mayer, chairman of DTCI, said Marinelli contributed “immeasurably” to Disney over the past three decades architecting and successfully negotiating “thousands of innovative” deals that benefited the company.

“I am so grateful for her insightful counsel and steadfast collaboration over the past year as we laid the foundation for DTCI and the upcoming launch of Disney+,” Mayer said. “I especially appreciate her willingness to stay on and see us through this time of tremendous change.”

As president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for Disney’s DTCI segment, Marinelli oversaw Disney’s program sales operations and distribution of the company’s direct-to-consumer apps to global accounts and broadcasters worldwide. She led the global distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD, pay networks, Hulu, the Movies Anywhere app and the upcoming Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service Disney+.

Marinelli’s sales and distribution teams worked across domestic and international media markets by providing high-quality content created by Disney’s Studio Entertainment and Media Networks groups.

Under her direction, the division distributed properties from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior to broadcasters, digital services and other distributors around the world.

Marinelli and her team gave consumers in domestic and international home entertainment media markets myriad viewing choices while providing the most compelling and entertaining films in the industry.

Fueled by the studio’s box office success, the division implemented new technologies and created a superior in-home viewing experience for its customers to drive both digital and physical ownership.

She also oversaw product development and marketing strategies for Disney’s portfolio of brands and franchises across all in-home platforms. Most recently, the in-home division vigorously expanded into the 4K UHD premium format and her team also managed the re-releases of the powerhouse classic titles from the vault as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection.

As the architect and dealmaker behind Movies Anywhere, Marinelli drove the development of the free app and website that has revolutionized digital ownership by bringing the film libraries of five studios together in a virtual one-stop movie-watching shop.

After Marinelli and her team successfully launched Disney Movies Anywhere in 2017, she subsequently brokered deals with Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. to join the initiative to transform digital movie purchase and engagement. She also spearheaded negotiations with digital retailers including Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, FandangoNow, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Comcast Xfinity.

Marinelli joined Disney’s Buena Vista Television in 1985 as an account executive. She later served as director of sales, western division before assuming the role of senior vice president of sales. She was named executive vice president in 1996 and president in 1999. Marinelli was appointed as president of Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution in 2013 and was promoted to her role with DTCI in 2018.