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Former OWN COO Neal Kirsch Joins Gaming TV Network VENN (EXCLUSIVE)

The Video Game Entertainment and News Network (VENN) is staffing up ahead of its 2020 launch: VENN has hired former Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and Discovery Networks executive Neal Kirsch as its new COO & CFO, the company is scheduled to announce Thursday.

Kirsch served until late 2016 as the COO & CFO of Oprah’s cable channel. Before that, he worked for 9 years as the executive vice president & CFO of Discovery Networks.

At Venn, he will be instrumental to launching a slightly different kind of network: While OWN has very much been married to the pay TV distribution model, VENN plans to operate more in the mold of Cheddar, the post-cable news network that distributes its programming online as well as via internet-based pay TV services.

“This is a unique opportunity to pioneer an industry, satisfy a booming global gaming audience of billions, and tap into the white space of an immensely profitable marketplace,” said Kirsch in a statement.

“Neal has an extremely impressive track record of establishing media networks as industry game-changers,” added VENN co-CEO said Ben Kusin. “We are rewriting the future paradigm for television, and Neal’s experience in growing and guiding traditional networks to profitability will be an instrumental skill set to have on our journey.”

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VENN plans to mix coverage of esports tournaments with Twitch-like video game live streaming and other gaming-related content. The network plans to open dedicated studios in Los Angeles and New York, and also work with video game streamers who have made a name for themselves on Twitch and YouTube.

VENN is also set to announce the hire of a number of other key staffers Thursday: Former Twitch brand partnerships manager Arya Azar is joining the network as creator partnerships and content director; James Lee, who helped to build studios for a number of media companies while serving as director of media at the architecture firm Gensler is joining as senior vice president of real estate and facilities.

Adrienne Reed, who previously worked as a marketing executive for United Talent Agency and the Recording Academy, is joining the company as senior marketing director, in charge of the network’s brand marketing strategy; David Eichenstein, who previously worked in sales and marketing roles at Facebook, Bleacher Report, Buzzfeed and Fox, is joining VENN as vice president of business development.

VENN raised $17 million in seed funding in September, and plans to launch by mid-2020 on internet-based TV subscription services, ad-supported video services and gamer-centric live streaming services like Twitch. “Anywhere where our customers are consuming content, we want to be,” Kusin told Variety in September.

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