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Esports and gaming heavyweights get behind new network

A new esports network has launched with the backing of a number of high-profile names from within the industry, including Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin.

VENN will launch in 2020 and its creation has been announced by Horn, a four-time Emmy-winning producer who led esports broadcast production at Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment, and Kusin, former global director of new media at Vivendi Games.

The new network will feature live studios in New York and Los Angeles and will be aimed at gaming, esports and entertainment audiences. Seed-round funding worth $17m (€15.4m) has been secured from investors across various industries.

Kusin and Horn will serve as co-chief executives of VENN, which is short for Video Game Entertainment and News Network. Around 55 hours of original programming is set to air each week, with coverage to include streams, talk shows, documentaries and live events.

The Associated Press news agency reported that VENN has already secured broadcast deals with Twitch and YouTube, with agreements with Roku and Sling also in the pipeline.

Kusin said: “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.”

Horn added: “We’ve been polishing our craft on global stages for years while dreaming up new ways to create memorable esports broadcast experiences. VENN will bring together the best and brightest talent to apply the same creativity and big-picture thinking to greater gaming and entertainment content, building a bridge from our industry into the world that surrounds it.”

The investment round is being co-led by Bitkraft, an esports investment fund with a portfolio of more than 35 companies across its two fund generations.

The consortium of investors in VENN also includes Marc Merill, co-founder of Riot Games; Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment; Amy Morhaime, former head of global esports at Blizzard Entertainment; Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch; aXiomatic Gaming, an esports investment group; corporate venture capital firm BDMI; YuChiang Cheng, co-founder of World Golf Tour and president of Topgolf Media; Lifeline Financial Group; and Reimagined Ventures, the private capital group of Alec Litowitz, founder of Magnetar Capital and Cloud9 investor.