Esports’ Ariel Horn, Ben Kusin Establish VENN Gaming Network; To Launch in 2020
The gaming industry’s Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin have created VENN – a new network launching in 2020 with live studios in New York and Los Angeles, aimed at gaming, esports and entertainment audiences. With $17 million in seed round funding from investors spanning multiple industries, this new post cable TV network will cater to the $150 billion global gaming industry and live at the intersection of entertainment and gaming cultures.
“Video games continue to define the culture of today’s youth. Streamers, casters, content creators, esports athletes – these are our new celebrities,” said Kusin. “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.”
“We’ve been polishing our craft on global stages for years while dreaming up new ways to create memorable esports broadcast experiences,” said Horn. “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 co-led by BITKRAFT, the first esports investment fund in the world with a diverse global portfolio of more than 35 companies across its two fund generations.
“It’s about time we significantly raise the bar for video content in gaming and esports. We need to elevate the stars and stories in our community and provide a better and larger opportunity for brands to reach gamers. We have no doubt that Ariel and Ben are the guys to get this job done and are incredibly excited for a new level of entertainment value in gaming and esports,” said Jens Hilgers, Founding Partner of BITKRAFT.
Additionally, VENN brings together an elite consortium of investors spanning the worlds of gaming, sports, entertainment, culture, and business. Included in this group are:
- Marc Merrill, co-founder of Riot Games
- Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment
- Amy Morhaime, former head of global esports, Blizzard Entertainment
- Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch
- aXiomatic Gaming, a premier esports investment group with holdings in gaming and esports properties including Team Liquid, Niantic, and Epic Games
- BDMI, a corporate venture capital arm of Bertelsmann, the global media, services, and education company
- YuChiang Cheng, co-founder of World Golf Tour and President of Topgolf Media
- Lifeline Financial Group, a full-service multi-family office based in Beverly Hills, representing high profile clients across sports and entertainment
- Reimagined Ventures, the private capital group of Alec Litowitz, founder of Magnetar Capital and Cloud9 investor
“The exciting thing about VENN is its potential to expose what is so compelling about gaming culture to a wider audience,” said Merrill. “I look forward to seeing the content they create and the opportunities they’re going to open up for players everywhere.”
Designed for fans across all platforms, VENN was created as a singular media brand to unite a fragmented media marketplace. Its content will span multiple categories of entertainment, with original programming produced both in-house and with some of the biggest names and creators in gaming, entertainment, streaming, and esports.
“I’m proud to support the team at VENN on an exciting new milestone for digital entertainment,” said Morhaime. “Having a central location for high-quality content from across the industry is an important foundational step for gaming communities.”
“The explosion in gamer-driven digital entertainment over the past decade has shown that traditional models must evolve to keep up with this new audience,” said Keith Titan, Partner at BDMI. “We believe that Ben and Ariel bring the passion, experience, and authenticity critical to creating content that serves, engages and challenges the digital audience. We’re thrilled to be part of their support network as they put this bold new vision into action.”
“VENN will be everywhere the gaming audience consumes content: Streaming platforms, VOD, 24/7 linear and social networks,” said Horn. “Pioneering a truly interactive broadcast network will enable the kind of experiences these audiences demand.”