Complex’s food vertical gets 85 percent of its revenue outside of ads

In June, heading into the sixth season of “Hot Ones,” Complex Networks and its food vertical First We Feast released two new hot sauces featured in the hit interview series. One of the sauces, called “The Last Dab Reduxx,” is the hottest sauce on the show and reserved for guests who can make it to the final chicken wing. Cooked up by renowned hot sauce specialist Ed Currie, “The Last Dab Reduxx” is made with Pepper X, the hottest pepper in the world.


Complex and First We Feast made 1,000 bottles of the sauce available for sale in June — and promptly sold out in less than an hour. Soon after, bottles started showing up on eBay at marked up prices, said Chris Schonberger, gm of First We Feast and co-creator of “Hot Ones.”

“This is not a normal hot sauce release,” said Schonberger. “This is like a sneaker drop.”

While Schonberger doesn’t condone the resale market for hot sauces, he said the popularity of “The Last Dab Reduxx” and other hot sauces featured on “Hot Ones” points to how the show has grown beyond its roots as a hit YouTube series. The hit show, which has now aired 138 episodes and has more than 685 million views across platforms, has also become a hit business that includes non-advertising revenue streams such as commerce and content licensing and syndication. It’s a model that other publishers hopeful of creating hit content franchises aim to emulate.

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