Courtesy of TikTok
Mayer, who worked at the Walt Disney Co. for more than two decades and led the launch of Disney Plus, will replace John Skipper, the former ESPN chief who had joined DAZN in 2018. Skipper is stepping down to focus on Meadowlark Media, an independent content company focused on individual sports creators he launched in January with former ESPN host Dan Le Batard.
Mayer’s appointment comes after he joined Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries investment firm as a senior adviser last fall. Access owns a majority stake in DAZN, as well as in media companies including Warner Music Group and Deezer.
“As chairman, I’m looking forward to partnering with the management team and my fellow directors to help DAZN build on its impressive track record of success in developing a truly global sports platform,” Mayer said in a statement. He said that since starting at Access Industries last year, “I’ve been impressed with DAZN’s ambitions and ability to quickly grow from a new entrant to an important player in key markets throughout the world. I look forward to guiding DAZN’s strategic development into its next chapter.”
Skipper will remain on the DAZN Group board and also serve as a strategic adviser. In addition, DAZN said it intends to invest in and collaborate with Meadowlark on original programming projects. In a statement provided by DAZN, Skipper said, “It’s the ideal moment to transition the company into its next phase of growth. Having worked closely with Kevin at the Walt Disney Company for more than two decades, I can’t think of a better person to lead the DAZN Group board of directors.”
News of Mayer’s new role at DAZN comes after the company in January named Shay Segev and James Rushton co-CEOs. Rushton had served as acting CEO since June 2020, while Segev previously was CEO of Entain, a sports betting and gaming company whose brands include Coral, Eurobet and Ladbrokes.
“As the world of sports and media continues to transform, DAZN Group remains a key holding within the Access portfolio,” Blavatnik said in a statement. “A seamless transition from John to Kevin and the recent move to deepen the executive team’s expertise with co-CEOs James Rushton and Shay Segev will accelerate the company’s momentum.”
Based in the U.K., DAZN first launched as a streaming service in 2016 and currently says it has about 9 million subscribers. From live matches to original programming, DAZN has partnered with the sports organizations and leagues worldwide on streaming rights for MMA, boxing, soccer and other sports. The company expanded to more than 200 territories in December 2020.
At Disney, Mayer most recently was chairman of the media conglomerate’s direct-to-consumer and international division, including Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus and Hotstar; its international media and studio operations; global ad sales; and global content and channel sales. Before that, as Disney’s chief strategy officer, Mayer helped engineer the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and most of 21st Century Fox’s assets.
Mayer left Disney in May 2020 to become CEO of TikTok and COO of parent company ByteDance. Three months later, Mayer resigned from ByteDance and TikTok after Donald Trump ordered Beijing-based ByteDance to sell TikTok to American buyers over claims that the app represented a national security threat. The Biden administration has tabled that order amid a broader national cybersecurity review.
Variety's Todd Spangler contributed to this post.