Upfronts ’19: Corus pairs with Complex in digital push

While much of its social content has courted female audiences in the past, Corus is now making sure young men are also served with relevant content.
Hot Ones

Last night, Corus capped off its Upfronts season with a glamorous party in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley. Celebs including Tom Payne, Chris Parnell, Sabrina Jalees and Lilly Singh, and brands and agencies were treated to quirky games and cool drinks between presentations.

But besides Corus’ lineup – much of which had already been revealed in small waves the week prior to the Upfront – the real star of the show was digital.

Besides Corus’ new partnership with Amazon, creating what it calls a virtual BDU, the entertainment company also showcased a brand new partnership with U.S.-based, Gen Z-targeted media group Complex, as well as expansions on its current social and digital initiatives with in-house social agency So.da and the recently acquired Kin Canada.

With Complex, Corus has become the official Canadian sales partner of all of its properties. It will also manage Complex’s social networks in Canada and will create localized, Canadian versions of some of its original short, mid and long-form content. Some of Complex’s most well-known properties include the Hot Ones format, which sees celebrities answering interview questions while eating progressively spicier wings (the most recent episode featuring the Jonas Brothers has racked up 3.4 million views) and Sneaker Shopping, which sees celebrities sharing their thoughts and stories during an outing of, you guessed it, sneaker shopping (the most recent episode had 1.2 million views at press time, only 12 hours after publishing). Sneaker Shopping is among the series getting the Canadian treatment, with a localized version to be produced this fall.

The digital network will be promoted with a linear boost; Corus will air a one-hour block of Complex content following the conclusion of Saturday Night Live this fall.

Complex is particularly appealing with the male 18- to 24-demographic, and Dervla Kelly, SVP of marketing and head of So.da, says that’s an area Corus wants to hone its focus on through digital content. “Men watch more than just sports,” she tells MiC. “We’ve put so much effort into our female audiences and their purchasing power, but we know that men today are big consumers. Complex has a really engaged audience who comes back week after week.”

That commitment to male audiences also extends to the launch of a new male-focused vertical on Kin. It’s added a new roster of male creators including Mikey Bustos, John Rush, Style by Hari and more.

Kelly says this will help bridge the gap between some of Corus’ more male-focused linear properties and the digital space. “We’re going to talk to advertisers about how they can reach young men across our networks – History, Adult Swim, Global – and add on this new opportunity where they can also reach them on digital.” She says So.da has seen its brand partners increase their influencer budgets over the last year, and that’s prompted the division to make a major investment in its creator roster.

Lastly, Corus has formally partnered with Twitter to launch Twitter Originals, fueled by So.da. So.da has already created a number of midform, brand-fueled series such as Food Network Canada’s #DestinationDishes (sponsored by CIBC Aventura) and baking show Sweet Somethings powered by Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The partnership will now see So.da developing these types of series with exclusivity toward Twitter, such as the upcoming series #BestNightIn sponsored by Stella Artois.

Beyond Twitter, So.da has also launched its Originals division, which will create original content to run across Corus’ own platforms, such as the makeover series #RoomForImprovement on HGTV’s online properties, #StyleThatFits on Slice and trivia series #Quizzical on Global.

According to Kelly, last year Corus’ social and digital content saw more than six billion views, with more than 1.5 billion minutes watched. The minutes watched, she says, is a sign of strong engagement with the brand.

In addition to the digital opportunities, there could be potential with events in the future. Complex has an active live events division; last year the ComplexCon event saw 60,000 attendees at its Long Beach event. Complex says it is exploring bringing localized versions of the events to the market.