Keynote: Beyond Channel And Format: Complex Agnosticism

Christian Baesler, President, Complex Media

Complex networks is multi-brand and a multi-platform. At the intersection of everything that defines them. Main goal is identifying trends and bringing them to the mainstream. Biggest brand for 18 to 34 year olds. Networks: Pop culture (Complex), music (Pigeons & Planes), sneakers (Sole Collector), food (First We Feast).

“Hot Ones,” “Sneaker Shopping,” and “Everyday Struggle” are the most viewed shows on YouTube. 20 to 30 minutes in length, average watch time is 19 minutes.

”Hot Ones” has 150 episodes. A Case Study: 10 stages of spiciness, three sauces produced with partner on our own. Huge following around the show. Goal is to replace sriracha. Merchandise is big business. Live events, doing tapings, doing cookbooks, recipes. License library content to iFlix International. One hour block on Fuse cable channel. 

Licensing and mid/long-form content. Differentiated, highly monetized model. Snapchat, 5 minutes version of show, more animated. Fuse, MSG, MVPDs. Repurpose content multiple times. 

MediaPost’s Steve Smith: Internal organization, using franchise-based approach. How did you reorganize?

Baesler: Keep strategy focused within the brands, everything else is centralized to leverage our scale.

Smith: How much is coming from direct monetization of video itself?

Baesler: Ancillary is growing. Programmatic and display is half, the other is direct to consumer. 100 TV-quality episodes that we can sell to other platforms, gave us the team to operate new business going forward. Can sell our library. 

Smith: Who is this audience?

Baesler: We are one of the most culturally diverse companies. There is no one audience. We were inspired by black culture but now 47% of ComplexCon is female, where Complex was a men’s publication. 

Our goal is to use our leverage with audience around creating branded content they would want to consume anyway. We have data available to create an agency business. Got Michael B. Jordan to help create commercial for Brisk. 

Smith: You’ve got something bigger to sell, the ideation is what you’re selling.

Baesler: ComplexCon started two years ago. If you were to bring the internet to life, this is ComplexCon. Retail sales $20M in 48 hours, 55K attendees, 1.2B social impressions. Producing an event this size you can do on your own, but if you’re looking to rent an arena, need a partner, biggest expo company in the world.

Selling not just a product but experiences. Lot of celebrities that show up there, shop there. For them it’s also the cultural events.  

Smith: What’s your biggest risk?

Baesler: Biggest risk is, originally just a website business, we’re now selling shows to Netflix, and once you become comfortable, balancing the need to grow the company is only possible by so much without totally selling out.

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