Tony Hawk's Media Empire Grows With Help From Complex

Skateboarding Icon Latest Celeb to Establish Media Site

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Tony Hawk in a video on YouTube's Ride channel.
Tony Hawk in a video on YouTube's Ride channel.

Former professional skateboarder Tony Hawk -- who has earned millions from video games, apparel and amusement park rides bearing his name -- is teaming up with young men's publisher Complex Media for, a website about skate culture.

The site is a joint venture between Complex and Mr. Hawk's production company, 900 Films, which is responsible for the bulk of the site's content, including skateboarding news, as well as tips and how-to stories mostly in the form of video. Complex handles the technology behind the site, along with the promotion and advertising sales.

"Tony has some entrepreneurial moxie and we're going to do some cool shit together," said Marc Ecko, founder of Complex. He said the partnership could lead to events and products, but declined to elaborate further.

Mr. Hawk is part of a growing tribe of celebrities intent on establishing their media empires. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow introduced her own lifestyle brand and website Goop in 2008. Another actress, Blake Lively, started a similar site called Preserve this year. In 2011, actor and investor Ashton Kutcher rolled out the viral content site

Days after hanging up his cleats, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who retired at the end of the 2014 baseball season, introduced The Players' Tribune, a website with content from athletes. And reality TV star Kim Kardashian has lent her name to a blockbuster app, "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood," which is expected to earn $200 million in revenue this year for its develop Glu Mobile.

Martha Stewart recently called out Ms. Paltrow's media efforts, saying she "just needs to be quiet."

But establishing a digital-media presence is a smart move for celebrities, according to Jitka Petrickova, managing partner-west at media agency MEC. "Building their own channel gives celebrities the opportunity to control what they represent and what types of content are available," she said. "They probably feel more control and as a result are more marketable."

Celebrities could establish a new revenue stream for themselves by selling advertising on their sites and promoting brands on their sites and social media feeds, Ms. Petrickova added.

Mr. Hawk, an icon in the skateboarding community, retired from the professional circuit in 1999. He then began a series of entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures, including a video-game franchise, extreme sports exhibitions, amusement park rides, a clothing line and a foundation that builds skate parks in underprivileged areas.

The Ride Channel is an extension of a YouTube channel of the same name introduced in 2012. Its genesis was the result of Google investing hundreds of million of dollars in original video creation and dispersing that money to various celebrities and media properties to produce videos for YouTube. Among the recipients was Mr. Hawk -- his initial annual budget was about $1 million, he told Bloomberg TV -- who created 900 Films and began producing videos.

Mr. Hawk was traveling Monday and unavailable to comment, but Complex's Mark Ecko said the skateboarding icon is involved in producing content for The Ride Channel. "This has been his baby," Mr. Ecko said. "Increasingly, it's not just about Tony," he added. "If you study the site, you see they have a pretty broad stack and they're constantly attracting young tutors and young skaters."

In a statement, Mr. Hawk said the partnership with Complex "will enable us to cover skateboard culture like never before."

Complex publishes an eponymous print magazine as well as nine owned and operated websites, all geared at young men. The Ride Channel marks Complex's second new website this year. In April, it introduced Triangle Offense, a site focused on basketball culture. Bacardi signed on as the sole sponsor. Complex also publishes editorial sites for brands, including for PepsiCo's Mountain Dew and SugarString for Verizon (which earned bad press last week).

Complex and Mr. Hawk's 900 Films will share revenue from advertising sales, according to Mr. Ecko. Ads currently appearing on are from Complex Media's existing clients, he added. And Ride, the YouTube channel, which has more than 760,000 subscribers, will become part of Complex Media's multi-channel network on YouTube.

The partnership between Complex and 900 Films is like "chocolate and peanut butter," Mr. Ecko said. "Together, we can be more purposeful in monetizing their video strategy."

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