×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hearst Invests $21 Million in Complex Media, Eyeing TV Shows for Hipster Dudes

Hearst has invested $21 million to take a minority stake in Complex Media, a digital media company targeting millennial males with pop-culture content, which is mulling expanding into TV.

For Hearst, the deal is the traditional media company’s latest bid to diversify, as youth-skewing audiences shift toward Internet and mobile outlets. Complex joins Hearst’s investments in Vice Media, BuzzFeed, United Artists Media Group, and AwesomenessTV, in which it acquired a 25% stake for $81.5 million from DreamWorks Animation.

“The Complex team drives explosive engagement through smart, hip content that features exclusives from some of the top music and popular culture stars of our time,” said Neeraj Khemlani, co-president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication and head of Hearst Digital Studios.

The investment brings New York-based Complex, started by fashion designer Marc Ecko in 2002, to $52 million raised to date. The companies didn’t disclose what portion of Complex is now owned by Hearst. Previous investors in privately held Complex include Iconix Brand Group, S3 Ventures, Austin Ventures and Accel Partners.

Complex operates in the same mold as other digital-centric companies in Hearst’s investment portfolio, and Khemlani noted that Vice (in its deal with HBO) and AwesomenessTV (with Nickelodeon) have successfully migrated their brands to TV. Hearst holds an ownership stake in A+E Networks as well as ESPN.

“If you have a great brand, great content and a large audience you can drive that wherever you want it to go,” he said. “Whether it’s pay television or movies on iTunes, all platforms are fair game.”

Complex’s sites focus on niche segments in pop culture, entertainment, fashion, hip-hop music, art and design, food, technology, sports and video games. The company reaches 57 million millennial males per month across owned and partner sites, and serves 192 million video views monthly — up more than fivefold from a year ago. Ecko started the company as a magazine, which continues to be published bi-monthly (the cover of the August/September 2015 issue, pictured above, features Khloe Kardashian).

With the funding, Complex plans to crank up even more video, CEO Rich Antoniello said. “As we look toward further expansion in digital and linear entertainment, Complex will have access to the extensive expertise, scale and partnerships that only a global media company like Hearst could offer,” he said. Complex earlier this year tapped Spike Lee as an adviser on video and branded-content initiatives.

Complex is different from BuzzFeed and other new-media players, Antoniello said, in that it’s been able to aggregate large audiences with content geared around specific vertical topics, such as sneaker culture.

In fact, Khemlani said he first got in touch with Antoniello about two years ago after the Hearst exec read “23 Things You May Not Know About Air Jordans” on Complex.com.

“I called Rich right after I read that… They cover pop culture unlike anyone I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Getting the attention of a male millennial is almost impossible these days, and it was no-brainer to partner with Rich and Marc.”

Complex has 331 employees, mostly based at its headquarters in New York and in L.A., where the company produces the bulk of its video programming.

More Digital

  • Fortnite Battle Royale

    Epic Pulls 'Fortnite' Ads From YouTube After Child Predator Controversy

    Epic Games is no longer running “Fortnite” pre-roll ads on YouTube after it was discovered they were playing on videos alleged predators used to exploit children, according to The Verge. The developer has paused all of its pre-roll advertising, which plays before a video starts on the streaming platform, a spokesperson said. It also reached [...]

  • New Video Shows Off Vive Cosmos

    New Video Shows Off Vive Cosmos VR Controllers

    There’s still much to be learned about HTC’s Vive Cosmos — like release date, specs, and price — but Wednesday the company released a short teaser video giving a slightly better glimpse of the controllers in action. The new controllers look a bit like rival VR headset Oculus Rift’s Touch controller, though reversed in some [...]

  • YouTube logo

    Disney Reportedly Pulls YouTube Ads Over Child-Exploitation Controversy

    YouTube is facing yet another big advertiser backlash, with Disney and Epic Games among the marketers said to have pulled their ad spending after the Google-owned video platform was accused of facilitating what a critic described as a “soft-core pedophilia ring.” Vlogger Matt Watson, in a Feb. 17 video on his YouTube channel MattsWhatItIs, showed [...]

  • Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ Unveiled

    Samsung Announces Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ Phones

    Samsung officially announced its new flagship phones, the Galaxy S10 and its larger sibling, Galaxy S10+, at its Unpacked press event in San Francisco on Wednesday morning. The new phone features a punch-hole cut-out for its front-facing camera, which allowed the company to use an edge-to-edge screen design without the notch found on the latest [...]

  • Samsung's Galaxy Fold Unveiled at Unpacked

    Samsung Announces Galaxy Fold, a $1,980 Foldable Phone

    Samsung officially announced its new foldable phone, dubbed the Galaxy Fold, at its Unpacked press event in San Francisco Wednesday morning. The device features two screens that unfold to a tablet-sized slate. “We are giving you a device that doesn’t just define a new category, it defies categories,” said Samsung senior vice president of product [...]

  • ABC-Oscar-Game

    ABC to Launch Oscars Live Play-Along Game With $50,000 Grand Prize

    ABC is hoping to drive viewers to its host-less telecast of the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday by dangling the promise of cold, hard cash to one lucky winner. The broadcaster is launching “The Official Oscar Game,” a live game that will let viewers play along in real time during the awards presentation. The game’s [...]

  • Dave Finocchio - Bleacher Report

    Bleacher Report Co-Founder Dave Finocchio to Exit This Summer

    Dave Finocchio is leaving Turner’s Bleacher Report, the millennial-skewing digital sports company he co-founded in 2005 and led as CEO for the last three years. With Finocchio set to exit in June, Turner Sports has named Howard Mittman as CEO of Bleacher Report to replace him. Finocchio hired Mittman, who has held a dual role [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content