×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

VENN Raises $17 Million to Launch a Cheddar-like TV Network for Gaming

Video game industry veterans Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin have raised a massive $17 million seed funding round to launch a new gaming-focused TV network called VENN. Short for Video Game Entertainment and News Network, VENN wants to mix esports with Twitch-style video game streaming and other gaming-related entertainment content when it launches in 2020.

The funding round is being co-led by esports investment fund Bitkraft and private investment company Eldridge Industries. Other investors include Riot Games co-founder Marc Merril, Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Mike Morhaime, Twitch co-founder Kenin Lin, aXiomatic Gaming, Bertelsmann’s BDMI, YuChiang Cheng, Lifeline Financial Group and Reimagined Ventures.

VENN’s co-founders both have many years of experience in the entertainment and gaming industry under their belt. Kusin used to work for Electronic Arts before becoming the global director for new media and strategic alliances at Vivendi Universal Games. Horn used to be a NBC Universal executive who went on to become the global head of esports content at Riot Games.

Now, the duo wants to worth together to build a kind of next-generation TV network for gamers that goes far beyond esports tournaments. “Esports is a narrow $2 billion industry,” Kusin said during a recent interview with Variety. Gaming as a whole on the other hand was a $150 billion industry, he argued. “And yet, it doesn’t have a dedicated TV network.”

To prepare for the network’s launch, its co-founders plan to build out 2 studios, one in New York and one in Los Angeles. The goal is to produce 55 hours of original programming per week at launch, said Kusin. Some of that content will come from video game streamers already popular on Twitch and YouTube, which VENN wants to and give additional resources to professionalize their programming. “The type of content we are trying to create is proven already,” Horn said.

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. Additionally, VENN will make some of its content available on demand on social networks, Kusin said. “Anywhere where our customers are consuming content, we want to be,” he said.

It’s no accident if that distribution strategy sounds a bit like what Cheddar is doing in the news space. Kusin readily admitted that the duo had been inspired by the news network. “We are fans of it,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • YouTube Originals A Heist With Markiplier

    YouTube's First Interactive Special Stars Markiplier and Has 31 Possible Endings

    YouTube is diving into interactive entertainment with a new special featuring popular gaming creator Markiplier as a black-clad super-criminal who tries to steal a priceless artifact from the world’s most secure museum. Along the lines of Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” viewers will control the outcome of the interactive movie, “A Heist With Markiplier.” The first-person [...]

  • Euphoria HBO

    'It's an Explosion': Inside the Rising Costs of Making a Scripted TV Series

    When Apple TV plus launches on Nov. 1, it will do so with what’s arguably the most expensive new-series lineup in TV history. Among the streamer’s initial offerings are the drama “The Morning Show,” bearing a price tag believed to be more than $15 million an episode, and the dystopian sci-fi series “See,” which is [...]

  • Erika Nardini - Barstool Sports

    Listen: Barstool Sports CEO Learns From Digital Media's Past Mistakes

    Long before she became CEO of Barstool Sports, Erika Nardini had a front-row seat to the early days of the internet advertising world and she has no intention of repeating its errors. Over a career that saw stops at AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and Demand Media, she watched as the digital powerhouses of yesteryear cluttered the [...]

  • Dany Garcia

    Dany Garcia Invests in Privacy-Focused Social Media Service MeWe

    Dany Garcia, CEO of Seven Bucks Productions and founder, CEO and chairwoman of the Garcia Companies and TGC Management, has taken a minority investment in MeWe, a startup that positions itself as a social network rival to Facebook — but one that gives users full control over their own data and privacy. Garcia co-founded Seven [...]

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg Quibi

    Quibi Says It Has Sold Out $150 Million First-Year Ad Inventory

    Nearly six months before Quibi is slated to hit the market, a cluster of large advertisers has committed millions in ad spending to the ambitious — and untested — premium mobile-video brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg. Quibi announced that it has sold out its $150 million advertising inventory for the first year. The startup’s category-exclusive ad partners [...]

  • Mackenzie Davis Terminator Dark Fate

    ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Ads placed for the sci-fi action film had an estimated media value of $6.81 million through Sunday for 796 national ad airings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content