By Sahil Patel
Complex Media today is announcing several key new hires as the male/lifestyle publisher looks to expand its video efforts into 2014.
Nathan Brown, a long-time video development and production exec, joins Complex as its new general manager of Complex TV and Video. He will be responsible for the development, production, and distribution of all original and branded content for the company, and will have oversight of Complex’s video products, partnerships, and business development.
In addition to Brown, Complex is adding two more execs to its video team: Adam Soldinger as VP of programming, development, and distribution; and Justin Lundstrom as director of video production.
Soldinger comes to Complex from Intel, where he was head of programming and development of new channels for the company’s OnCue digital cable service (which might be axed and be sold to Verizon). Prior to that, he held senior roles at Crackle and William Morris. Lundstrom is a veteran commercial producer, having spent 10 years producing ads, features, and documentaries for brands like Nike, Porsche, NBC, and Google. Both Soldinger and Lundstrom will be responsible for Complex’s video team, which currently has 15 employees.
Here’s a Q&A we did with Nathan Brown on this, the day of his new executive announcement:
2013 has been a pretty big year for print publishers of all types to venture into made-for-web original video programming. Why do you think that is the case, and how do you see Complex fitting into this growing publisher-as-programmer ecosystem?
In addition to print, Complex has been hyper-focused on digital publishing for years. Between Complex.com and our media network, we will surpass 100 million uniques and 1 billion monthly page views in December. Our increased focus on video has been a natural evolution of that. There’s a huge audience already accumulated, so now I get to produce videos for this rabid community of dedicated consumers. Plus our 16–35 demo is precisely who watches video content online. It’s not like we’re trying to make Cat Fancy relevant to a new, digital-first generation…
How much of an investment is Complex making into original video?
Without getting into too many specifics, I can say that it’s significant. We recently closed a $25 million investment round from Iconix that will disproportionately contribute to Complex’s video strategy. I have a team of 15 now and am on a trajectory to surpass 75 by the end of 2014.
Walk us through the the development and production process. Which boxes does need to be checked to ensure that a particular show is a good fit for your brand and your audience?
Thanks to the success we’ve had with the magazine and digital, we have a lot of insight into the kinds of content our audience likes to consume, so there’s a mix between analytics and intuition. It also doesn’t hurt that our editors are the best in the game at perceiving zeitgeist, predicting changes, and in many cases, helping lead trends.
What is your current distribution strategy across the Complex Media Network? Right now your originals and other video content can be found via Complex TV, but where else are they seeded on the network? Do you look to populate video clips next to relevant articles and other pieces of content?
Complex TV is the hub where all video can be consumed. This includes Complex originals and news, videos from our publishers, and content that we acquire and license. Our network is in some ways like a very powerfully concentrated off-YouTube MCN. We distribute the videos we make to our publishers for organic embedding in their editorial and as relevant companion content. The inverse is also true — we’re actively co-funding and co-producing videos that are extremely germane to their unique audience that we then amplify at Complex.com.
Which external video platforms do you currently distribute to? Are you looking to expand distribution in 2014?
The biggest distribution move in 2014 is YouTube. It’s funny because all you read about is publishers looking for ways to migrate away from YouTube and we’re just the opposite. I have to hand it to my CEO, Rich Antoniello, for having the discipline and fortitude to go about it the hard way — build an audience on our own platform before YouTube. In addition to YouTube, we’ll have a handful of other strategic distribution partnerships in place in Q1. Fortunately for us, there’s a lot of hunger for the kind of content we make and for the demo that we target.
What do you and Complex have planned for 2014? Anything coming in the next few weeks?
2014 is all about smart and rapid growth. Leading the way is Complex News, which officially launched December 1. This is our investment in daily, topical video news programming. There is a void in the market for the kind of cultural news our audience really wants to consume. We’re finishing a TV production studio in our NY office by the end of the year and breaking ground in LA in January. The goal is to be the first, best, and many times the only video news source covering a range of topics important to our audience from music, sports, and fashion, to tech, entertainment, sneakers.
We have many new original series in development, too. So, in addition to quick snackable news, we’ll continue to program the kind of brand-defining longer-form content that deeply engages viewers and builds big audiences.