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NEW YORK – Verizon and Hearst today announced they have entered into an agreement to jointly acquire Complex (the “Company”) in a 50/50 ownership structure. Rich Antoniello, Complex CEO & Co-Founder, will continue to lead the Company.
Founded by entrepreneur and Chief Brand Officer Marc Ecko in 2002, Complex is one of the fastest growing networks of sites focused on American popular culture—from entertainment news, sneakers and hip hop music to food, fashion, sports and technology––geared at the millennial male. The Company has seen a profit since 2010, excelling at providing advertisers with this targeted and attractive demographic. In addition to the joint acquisition, Complex will develop premium video content for distribution across Verizon digital platforms, including go90, AOL.com and more.
“The decision to acquire Complex is certainly a continuation of our media strategy, which is focused on disruption that is occurring in digital media and content distribution, and involves building a portfolio of the emerging digital brands of the future for the millennial and Gen-Z audience,” said Brian Angiolet, Verizon’s senior vice president of consumer product and marketing. “When we look at Complex and how well they’ve built audiences by championing the digital convergence of cultures for well over a decade, it pairs well with our strategic vision and current shifts in content consumption.”
The Complex announcement comes on the heels of Verizon and Hearst’s recent investments in AwesomenessTV (each owns 24.5% with DreamWorks Animation owning the rest) and their agreement in March to form a 50/50 joint venture to build new multiplatform digital video channels targeting the mobile millennial audience. The venture, Verizon Hearst Media Partners, is debuting two initial channels: RatedRed.com for millennials from the heartland who crave a brand of their own, and Seriously.TV, for viewers who want digital video comedic news updates throughout the day instead of waiting for late-night programming for their take on world events.
“Complex will turn up the volume on our growing portfolio with Verizon, complementing the audiences targeted with our other channel investments,” said Neeraj Khemlani, co-president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication. “Complex’s smart, fresh content aims squarely at the ever elusive young male demo and drives unparalleled engagement with that audience across every social channel. Complex also represents the acceleration of Hearst’s growing partnership with Verizon, which has unparalleled ad, video and mobile technology, and an appetite to build together the digital video networks of the future.”
Over the last two years, Complex has adopted a video-first approach, reaching over 50 million unique monthly visitors and seeing consumption spike to 300 million monthly views––a 415% percent growth year over year.
“Since honing in on video, we’ve proven our ability to create culturally relevant, premium video content at scale in a very short amount of time,” Antoniello said. “We are very excited by how truly strategic our new partners are and how large and immediate of an opportunity they provide through expansion of distribution, data and overall marketplace leverage. We’ll innovate and expand, while continuing to cultivate an audience that is as massive as it is engaged. With Verizon and Hearst, we‘re on track to become the most influential digital and linear entertainment destination, period. We look forward to being a key component in this industry-defining business venture.”
In transitioning from print to the video-first digital powerhouse it is today, Complex has become one of the top 10 publishers in the U.S. when it comes to social interaction and engagement on channels like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
“The numbers validate what we’ve always known: This complex generation of creators wanted a voice that looks, sounds, and thinks like them and defies being pigeonholed by demographic labels,” Ecko said. “For more than a decade, we’ve been catalyzing and shaping this movement of convergence culture, exposing young people to the musicians, artists, and writers that influence the present and inspiring them to create their own future. The platform we’ve built is as much ours as it is theirs.”
LionTree Advisors acted as advisor to Complex on this transaction. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions. The parties currently expect that the transaction will be completed within the next 60 days.