A new gaming and esports TV network backed by many of video gaming’s biggest publishers has been announced and has raised $17 million from industry investors including co-founders from Twitch, Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment.
VENN — Video Game Entertainment and News Network — is slated to debut in 2020 with live studios in New York and Los Angeles aiming to give the massive esports and gaming community a central network for content; similar to the tune of ESPN in the sports community. This new network is co-founded by four-time Emmy-winning producer Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin, son of GameStop founder Gary M. Kusin.
There is expected to be 55 hours of original programming per week, including live gaming streams, talk shows, documentaries and live esport events. While cable TV arrangements haven’t been announced yet, the founders said they plan to host the network on a list of platforms where gamers already consume content, including Twitch and YouTube. They also expect to be available on other streaming platforms like Roku and Sling.
With esports revenues expected to top over $1 billion dollars this year, and worldwide numbers rivaling those of traditional broadcast sports, industry giants are taking notice. And rightly so, in 2018, nearly 100 million viewers watched the League of Legends world championship, while last years Super Bowl had 100.3 million viewers.
While the viewership of major esport events garner massive popularity, the community remains a fragmented digital environment. Fortnite players aren’t necessarily keeping tabs on League of Legends. Call of Duty players may not be up to date with the latest update for Overwatch. VENN hopes to create a common space for all of those gamers as well as casual viewers. VENN Co-CEO Ben Kusin had this to say about the gaming community:
“Video games continue to define the culture of today’s youth. Streamers, casters, content creators, esports athletes – these are our new celebrities, VENN is giving this generation an overdue home and a heartbeat, with bi-coastal broadcast studios incorporating live audiences, premium production values, a 24/7 linear offering, and engaging and innovative formats that elevate and promote a culture traditionally overlooked by broadcast media.”
With investors including Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Mike Morhaime, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and investment groups behind Team Liquid, Cloud9 and Epic Games, VENN is already looking like a serious operation. Marc Merrill, co-founder of Riot Games said this about the network:
“The exciting thing about VENN is its potential to expose what is so compelling about gaming culture to a wider audience, I look forward to seeing the content they create and the opportunities they’re going to open up for players everywhere.”
Mike Morhaime, Co-Founder, Blizzard Entertainment also commented on the network announcement:
“I’m proud to support the team at VENN on an exciting new milestone for digital entertainment, having a central location for high quality content from across the industry is an important foundational step for gaming communities.”
Whatever level of gamer you are, or if you just like video games and think they’re cool, this venture is a huge step for the gaming industry as well as the gaming community. And in a world where we find it hard to agree on almost anything, maybe, just maybe, VENN could be a place for people find common ground in the enjoyment of video games.
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