• Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

BuzzFeed Unloads Complex, CEO Jonah Peretti To Focus On A.I.

BuzzFeed Unloads Complex, CEO Jonah Peretti To Focus On A.I.

Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed and Adam Rothstein Executive Chairman and Director
Jonah Peretti (left) said the Complex sale will allow BuzzFeed to focus on other efforts like A.I. Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Buzzfeed

buzzfeed (BZFD) said yesterday (Feb. 21) it had finalized the sale of its pop culture media brand Complex Networks to Ntwrk, a livestream shopping platform. The all-cash deal, worth almost $109 million, is a fraction of the $300 million BuzzFeed acquired Complex for in 2021. The same day, BuzzFeed announced plans to lay off 16 percent of its staff. Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti said these moves will help the struggling media company become more “profitable, nimble and innovative.” BuzzFeed stock surged more than 60 percent today on the news.

“This is also an opportunity to unlock greater value for the Complex brand by combining it with NTWRK’s expansive, commerce-driven business,” Peretti said in a statement yesterday. 

A Complex sale was a matter of “when” rather than “if.” BuzzFeed was reportedly looking to sell the brand in the summer of 2023. Last October, BuzzFeed was negotiating with NTWRK to sell Complex for $140 million but eventually settled for much less. After the sale, Complex’s new CEO will be Aaron Levant, a cofounder of NTWRK and the event ComplexCon. 

Last April, BuzzFeed shut down its newsroom, BuzzFeed News, and laid off 180 staffers. That same month, Peretti said that he would start outsourcing more of BuzzFeed’s content to creators and artificial intelligence (A.I.).

Peretti said the Complex sale will not only aid BuzzFeed’s remaining brands, which include HuffPost and Tasty, but it will also allow the company to focus on new efforts such as “innovation powered by A.I.” and “interactive content formats.” 

BuzzFeed is not letting go of some of the popular properties previously owned by Complex, though. The deal will allow BuzzFeed to keep First We Feast, the franchise producing the popular show Hot Ones, which combines celebrity interviews with hot wing tasting. 

Complex hosts shows like Complex News and Sneaker Shopping. A merger with an e-commerce platform could help the media brand further its shift to online shopping, a trend social media platforms are increasingly embracing. NTWRK said the new company will marry “an e-commerce platform anchored in sneakers, streetwear, and collectibles with content and music.”

Universal Music Group, which is one of the financiers of the deal, said it will collaborate with Complex to create projects involving its labels, starting with Interscope Geffen A&M and Capitol Music Group. 

BuzzFeed Unloads Its Pop Culture Brand Complex, CEO Jonah Peretti To Focus On A.I.

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