Gaming heavyweights raise $17M for new esports network
|Toronto Star 17 Sep 2019 at 07:57|
NEW YORKâ A new venture backed by many of video gamingâs biggest publishers is unveiling a network that hopes to be to esports what ESPN has been to traditional sports.
VENN is set to launch in 2020 and aims to give the fragmented esports scene a home base for content with higher production value than gamers are used to with online streaming. The network was co-founded by four-time Emmy-winning producer Ariel Horn and entrepreneur Ben Kusin and has raised $17 million (U.S.) from investors including co-founders from Twitch, Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment.
VENN, short for Video Game Entertainment and News Network, will debut with live studios in New York and Los Angeles. There is expected to be 55 hours of original programming per week, including gamer streams, talk shows, documentaries and live esport events. It already has deals in place to broadcast on Twitch and YouTube and expects to be available on mediums like Roku or Sling.
VENN hopes to solve that with content built around the culture of gaming.
âI think weâre more of a hybridized ESPN and what MTV TRL (Total Request Live) was when it launched decades ago,â Kusin said. âThat crossover that it brought music in that generation in the culture.â
âWe could go to these luminaries in the industry and say, âHey, we want to come together, be swift, work with a bunch of different titles, a bunch of different publishers and move the industry forward in terms of its recognition and prominence, will you help us?ââ Kusin said. âThe answer was a resounding yes.â
Hornâs presence is a big part of that. Formerly a sports producer at NBC, he has become a pioneering figure in esports. His achievements included a sports Emmy in 2017 for his role in landing an augmented reality dragon inside a stadium during the 2017 League of Legends World Championships opening ceremony and a successful New Yearâs Eve stream by Ninja from Times Square last year.
âTaking whatâs already there on a platform that (gamers) understand, and taking that into a network environment, thatâs what weâre looking to do,â Horn said.