×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Complex Media Expands to Give Dudes Their Due

Hipster brand infuses fresh funding into slate to challenge Vice and others for young men

On the 35th floor of the Time-Life Building in Manhattan, Nathan Brown is trying to figure out how to create a massive online video network that caters to the fickle tastes of millennial males.

Brown, general manager of Complex TV, has clear marching orders: The company wants his team to deliver at least 1 billion video views in 2014. The plan is to build an original video slate aimed at males 16-40, with a mix of daily news, entertainment, fashion and comedy.

To get big fast, Brown and his team will draw on Complex Media’s network of 123 male-skewing websites, which attract north of 90 million monthly unique visitors. “We have proven that people come to us to know what’s cool, what’s hip, what’s next,” he said. “Now we have to show we can build a video audience and develop original content.”

Complex Media started as a men’s magazine in 2002. It’s grown into a sizable digital publisher, and in September raised $25 million in funding from licensing and brand management company Iconix Brand Group. Much of that is earmarked for scaling video production and distribution, according to Complex Media CEO Rich Antoniello. The funding “is transformative, and will allow us to accelerate our already rapid growth,” he said.

A major plank in Brown’s video strategy is Complex News, a dedicated information channel that launched Dec. 2. Featuring fast-break dispatches on culture and lifestyle, the news channel hopes to release up to 25 pieces of content daily, becoming a sort of a next-generation MTV News, according to Brown. (Its tagline: “Answering the five W’s: who, when, why, where and WTF?!?”)

“Our audience wants to go into the office and know that Kobe Bryant wore a certain kind of shoe last night,” he said. “We want to be the destination where they get that information.”

Competitive sneaker news? There’s no guarantee such fare will help Complex TV fast-break into the Internet-video big leagues. The company will bump into a host of competitors — most directly, globe-trotting rival Vice Media, a multiplatform media company in which 21st Century Fox recently took a $70 million stake that will fuel its own expansion.

According to Brown, Complex TV, while focused on reaching the same demographic as Vice, will tilt more toward lifestyle topics instead of harder-hitting news. “They’ve chosen a different lane than we have,” he said.

Brown joined Complex in February from San Francisco commercial production company Rehab Media. He’s got a jogging start: Complex TV soft-launched earlier this year, and its lineup of 13 series have garnered about 25 million monthly views. Among the most popular clips are “Kate Upton: Hot Complex” and “Big Freedia Teaches Complex How to Twerk.”

Last month, the website added two new original series, “The Riff Raff Realm,” a “Talk Soup”-like variety show starring the rapper of the same name; and “Overcranked,” billed as an “artistic celebration of the human form” in slow motion and set to music. In addition, the company renewed “Magnum Opus,” a series that looks at the origin of seminal hip-hop songs like Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” with McDonald’s signed on as sponsor.

The Complex TV staff numbers 15, but Brown is in full-throttle hiring mode. He expects to have more than 75 employees within a year, most in the news department. To feed the news beast and create other content, the company is building a studio in its New York headquarters, and expects to open an L.A. studio as well.

Complex TV also is working with marketers to produce branded content, which has been a more lucrative path for monetizing online video. Some of that, presumably, will be for new shareholder Iconix, whose fashion brands include Rocawear, Ecko Unlimited and Umbro. (Complex Media’s other investors comprise Accel Partners and Austin Ventures, among others.)

Brown doesn’t anticipate Iconix’s interest in the company causing any conflicts. Fashion designer Marc Ecko founded Complex magazine, he said, “and even he can’t really sway the editorial purity.”

More Digital

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg

    Quibi Has Already Booked $100 Million in Ad Sales, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman Say

    Quibi, the ambitious short-form video service from Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, has sold $100 million in upfront ad inventory with six advertisers ahead of its April 2020 debut. Advertisers that have committed ad spending to Quibi include Google, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Walmart, Progressive and AB InBev, according to the company. The $100 [...]

  • China's iQIYI Signs Content, Channel Pact

    China's iQIYI Signs Content, Channel Pact With Malaysia's Astro

    Astro Malaysia, Malaysia’s leading pay-TV operator, has struck a strategic agreement with Chinese streaming platform iQIYI. Astro obtains the exclusive rights to deliver iQIYI content on TV, on-demand and via OTT in Malaysia. It will launch the first iQIYI-branded channel comprising iQIYI’s extensive slate of original content from drama to variety shows and movies. Astro [...]

  • Toy Story 4 Forky

    ‘Toy Story 4’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Disney Pixar claims the top spot in spending with “Toy Story 4.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.53 million through Sunday for 1,073 national ad airings on 38 networks. [...]

  • Murder Mystery

    Netflix Reveals Record-Breaking Stats for Sandler-Aniston 'Murder Mystery' Flick

    “Murder Mystery,” the latest Adam Sandler film to debut on Netflix, broke viewing records on the streaming service, the company revealed Tuesday. The film, which is co-headlined by Jennifer Aniston, was seen by close to 30.9 million households in its first 3 days, according to a tweet sent out Tuesday afternoon. 🚨ADAM SANDLER AND JENNIFER [...]

  • Charles Caldas To Step Down as

    Charles Caldas To Step Down as Merlin CEO

    Charles Caldas, the only CEO that the independent-label collective Merlin has ever known, announced today that he will step down from his post at the end of 2019, after more than 12 years at the helm of the global rights organization. He will continue his current duties until then and work with the Merlin board to [...]

  • Vice Media Digital Makeover Triggers Traffic

    Vice Media Digital Makeover Triggers Traffic Slide

    Life on its own online isn’t easy for Vice Media. Ending the digital publisher’s controversial practice of rolling up web traffic for partner sites into an aggregated number resulted in the total domestic traffic falling nearly by half between March 2019 and the following month, according to Comscore. The numbers improved slightly for May, when [...]

  • Merlin Reports Record Distributions for 2019

    Merlin Reports Record Distributions for 2019

    Global indie-label collective Merlin reported record distributions in its 2019 membership report, paying $845 million to label and distributor members between April 2018 and March of this year. That figure, a 63% year-over-year increase, includes more than $130 million paid out this year from non-royalty income — and included in that figure is the estimated [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content