Complex Media Sells Entertainment Site Collider (Exclusive)

Collider Homepage and Marc Fernandez - Inset - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of subject (Fernandez)
Investor Marc Fernandez has purchased the brand with plans to grow it independently.

Complex Media has sold entertainment news website Collider a little more than three years after it bought the brand with plans to build up its video business. 

The buyer is former Complex head of video Marc Fernandez, a cryptocurrency investor who teamed with a silent partner to buy the brand and grow the movies and television website into a diversified media business. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

"Our goal is to build strong IP," Fernandez tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding that he would then license Collider's projects to distribution partners. "There's nothing better than owning a house that’s so beautiful that people want to rent it."

Founded by Steve “Frosty” Weintraub in the early days of niche blogs and news sites, Collider sold to Complex at a time of consolidation across the media industry. In the three years since, much has changed. Complex, which began as a hip-hop, fashion and pop culture magazine in 2002, became a joint venture of Verizon and Hearst in 2016 and now serves as the umbrella for a number of culture-focused brands, including sneaker news site Sole Collector and millennial heartland programmer Rated Red.

Complex stopped producing its print magazine in early 2017 and laid off most of its product team in October as part of a push to produce more video. Now, CEO Rich Antoniello says that the company wants to focus on "deeply cultural driving brands."

He continues, "We loved Collider, we loved the content. But it is more of a general entertainment brand than it is a specific youth culture brand." 

Collider will remain part of Complex's advertising and multichannel network. "We can help them from a sales and audience perspective without having the operation expenditures that go with it," says Antoniello. "You get to have your cake and eat it, too."

The sale of Collider comes as digital media companies across the industry have struggled to keep growing at previous levels amid increased competition from advertising giants Facebook and Google. Changes to Facebook's News Feed algorithm, which will deprioritize content from media brands in favor of friends and family posts, is putting further pressure on companies that have invested heavily in digital video in recent years. Both Vice and BuzzFeed missed their revenue projections in 2017, Mashable sold for well under its one-time valuation and layoffs have hit Vox Media, Funny or Die and CNN Digital. 

But Antoniello contends industry-wide challenges are not the reason that Complex decided to sell Collider. "We grew our top-line well over 30 percent last year," he says, adding that the sale is about bringing "focus" to Complex. 

Fernandez, a former video game director and producer who worked on Dexter the Game and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, says he saw an opportunity to grow the Collider brand independently while retaining its focus on film, television and video games.

Fernandez says that he's looking at ways to incorporate the blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrency into the Collider business. But when asked about the role of crypto in his business, he declines to provide much detail beyond, "We know the kind the freedom that potentially Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies can bring to the table." 

Collider has set up operations in a warehouse in Burbank that has room for the 50-person staff that Fernandez hopes to assemble by the end of the year. (Collider currently employs 18 full-time staffers and a half-dozen freelancers.) The site will continue to publish articles as well as produce such shortform video series as Movie Talk and Star Wars-centric Jedi Council.

Under Complex ownership, the site's audience grew from 3 million monthly visitors to nearly 12 million, per internal numbers, in large part because of its video growth. Now, Fernandez has visions of launching video games, VR projects and scripted television series under the Collider name, explaining, "I want to cast a wider net."