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 Merrill, Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Mike Morhaime, Twitch co-founder Kevin 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 NBCUniversal 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 two 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 livestreaming 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.