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New esports network VENN aims to bring 'gaming as a lens into pop culture'

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By Amy Tennery

(Reuters) – A new, 24/7 esports gaming network called VENN that aims to blend pop culture and gaming was announced on Tuesday, after generating $17 million in seed round funding.

Co-founders Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin told Reuters that the venture will launch sometime in mid 2020 and is angling to be a “universal network” with programs like first-run esports events, reality shows, documentaries and game shows.

“You have this $150 billion-a-year industry that has no TV network,” said Kusin, former Global Director of New Media at Vivendi Games. “We are a universal network – that means we will be distributed and consumed anywhere our audience is consuming gaming content.”

Popular esports streaming services like Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, and Mixer, which is owned by Microsoft, are among the platforms VENN is aiming to be distributed on, according to Horn, along with YouTube, Roku, Hulu and Apple TV.

A representative for the company said it is not announcing any streaming agreements yet.

Investors include Kevin Lin, the co-founder of Twitch, and Mike Morhaime and Marc Merrill, the co-founders of Blizzard Entertainment and Riot Games, respectively, among others in the gaming, sports and business industries.

Esports has gained rapid popularity worldwide, drawing top-dollar investments, with global revenue from professional video-game competitions expected to hit $1.1 billion in 2019.

“We can see that gaming is having a moment,” said Horn, “We can tell there’s this incredible groundswell around gaming and awareness is at an all-time high.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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