VENN Diagram: Esports Veterans To Launch New Linear TV Network
Video game industry veterans Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin have raised a $17M seed funding round to "launch a new gaming-focused TV network called VENN," short for Video Game Entertainment & News Network, according to Janko Roettgers of VARIETY. The net "wants to mix esports with Twitch-style video game streaming and other gaming-related entertainment content when it launches" in '20. Kusin used to work for EA before joining Vivendi Universal Games as Global Dir of New Media & Strategic Alliances. Horn was a former NBCU exec who later became Riot Games Global Head of Esports Content. The co-founders "plan to build out 2 studios," one in N.Y. and one in L.A. Kusin said that the "goal is to produce 55 hours of original programming per week at launch." Some of that content "will come from video game streamers already popular on Twitch and YouTube." VENN is "scheduled to launch by mid-2020, and broadcast on internet-based TV subscription services, free live video services like Pluto, and live streaming services like Twitch." Kusin added that Venn "will make some of its content available on demand on social networks" (VARIETY.com, 9/17). Investors include BitKraft, Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, aXiomatic Gaming (whose investors include Ted Leonsis and Jeff Vinik) and the venture capital arm of media company Bertelsmann (Adam Stern, THE DAILY).
A LOOK AT CONTENT: Kusin did not offer distribution details but said that streaming and linear platforms "were both on tap." Kusin and Horn indicated that about 50% of the content "will be streamed competition," including "more polished forms of the competitions now available on the likes of YouTube." In DC, Steven Zeitchik reports the "other half will include gaming-related content in talk, magazine and other unscripted formats, with the potential for more high-end scripted content down the line." The co-founders said that revenue will "come from subscriptions, cable operators and advertisers, and brand sponsors" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/17). In L.A., Wendy Lee notes programs on the net "will include talk shows, reality shows, documentaries and esports events." VENN said that it will "grow its audience for its shows by working with esports content creators who are popular and want to connect with a larger audience and work on higher-quality produced programs." The L.A. and N.Y. studios "will be gathering spots for people to engage with esports and brands." The company "will employ about 60 people in both cities." Venn plans to target people ages 16-34, "with 60% males" (L.A. TIMES, 9/17).
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