Chalk this up as the latest major bet on the importance of mobile video for the future of digital media.
Verizon Wireless and Hearst Corp. are set to jointly acquire Complex Media. The “video-first” lifestyle site, focused on pop-culture trends and general entertainment, will continue to operate independently, albeit with Verizon and Hearst now each owning 50 percent stakes in the company. Complex CEO and co-founder Rich Antoniello will continue to lead the company.
Complex Media has raised more than $60 million in investment over several rounds, most recently gathering a $21 million investment from Hearst Corp. this past September.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The WSJ reports that the deal values Complex Media between $250 million and $300 million.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to have a very good initial return for our shareholders, but now it’s really about the second act,” Antoniello told TechCrunch. “We really could not have chosen better strategic partners.”
Few companies have seen their landscape evolve and drastically shift as much as Hearst Corporation. The transition from print to web has been a shift that many publications have had to pursue retroactively. Hearst Entertainment and Syndication co-president Neeraj Khemlani told me that today’s move offers the company a chance to get ahead of mobile video trends with Verizon’s assistance.
“Part of this is a feeling that history is repeating itself here and every time there is a technological change, new brands are created for new generations,” said Khemlani. “We believe we’re in the early days of internet video channels.”
Complex has seen “hockey stick growth” over the past several years, Khemlani says. The site sees more than 50 million unique visitors monthly, powering more than 300 million page views.
“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.
*[Disclosure: Verizon is the parent company of TechCrunch]