Verizon and Hearst are expanding further into digital content and advertising with the joint acquisition of Complex Media, an online publisher that targets young males.
The companies declined to disclose terms of the deal, but The Wall Street Journal reported it values Complex at $250 million to $300 million.
Verizon has moved aggressively into digital media and advertising over the last year, and last month it announced a joint venture with Hearst to develop mobile video aimed at millennials that will be distributed across its Go90 and AOL properties, as well as through third-party networks. Two weeks ago Verizon said it has purchased a 24.5 percent stake in AwesomenessTV, a youth-focused digital media company in which Hearst already had a 24.5 percent stake.
Verizon and Hearst agreed to take over Complex in a 50/50 partnership.
Complex was founded in 2002 by designer Marc Ecko, and the company will continue to be led CEO and co-founder Rich Antoniello. Complex, which has seen a profit since 2010, will continue to develop video for distribution across Verizon's digital platforms.
"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, in a prepared statement. "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."
Complex launched as a print magazine focusing on streetwear and skater culture, and in the last two years "has adopted a video-first approach," the company said in a press release. The company claims more than 50 million unique monthly visitors and reported a 415 percent increase in traffic year over year since 2014.
Like rival AT&T, Verizon is building out a cross-platform, video-first media business as growth in the U.S. smartphone market flattens. Both operators are looking to deliver OTT video to reach consumers beyond their own mobile subscribers, and both hope to generate new advertising revenue streams. It remains to be seen how effectively they can leverage digital media, however.
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