Hearst and Verizon have announced that they have executed a 50/50 acquisition of Complex, a millennial focused media business that Hearst invested $21 million in only last Summer, for 10% of the company. The valuation of the business, according to Wall Street Journal, was between $250 and $300 million, a very strong price tag for Complex, which has taken over $60 million in investment over the arc of the business’s 13 years.
Complex now joins Awesomeness TV on the Verizon-owned slate of media and video properties. Hearst has also previously invested in Awesomenss TV, which was valued at over $670 million at point of purchase earlier this Spring. Both deals signal Verizon’s continued commitment to the video space after it has already invested upwards of $1 billion in content acquisition, licensing and marketing for its own streaming destination, go90.
Complex has been on the block for awhile, according to various sources close to the company. But the purchase by Verizon, and Hearst, was a wise one. Complex, which has expanded its video business over the last three years to included scripted and unscripted projects, as well as a daily live business — Complex News. Complex News, since launching under former GM of Video Nathan Brown in 2013, has become the company’s flagship property and could have been one of the most attractive propositions for Verizon. Verizon has a similar content deal with Awesomeness TV for a daily news program targeted at young adults. Complex News, which has a strong male audience, would be a nice complement to the female-dominant audience that Awesomeness TV has captured.
Complex has also teamed with Tony Hawk on a video-centric skate property — Ride Channel — and has also built a strong entertainment and celebrity-based vertical from its acquisition of Collider.com. It has also partnered with major brands like Mountain Dew to create branded destinations such as, in the case of Mountain Dew, GreenLabel.com. Across the board, Complex has accumulated a stable of video-centric properties focused on both niche and broad male-minded topics like sneakers, clothing, pop culture and lifestyle.
In a release, Verizon’s SVP of Consumer Product and Marketing said: “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. 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.”
According to a release, Rich Antoniello, who has been with the business since its early days, will stay on as CEO to run the business. Complex was founded by serial entrepreneur and fashion designer Marc Ecko. The company will develop and produce video content for Verizon’s g090, as well as AOL.
“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. 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.”
The deal was done by Neeraj Khemlani on the Hearst side. He also led the deal with Verizon for Awesomeness TV. And we’d predict he’s just getting started.