As my generation and those after me (Gen Z, millennials, and so on) take over from the Boomers, our media habits continue to supplant theirs. The rise of “nerd culture,” of comics, memes, streaming, and video games, is a natural part of this evolution. This culture has gone mainstream not because it’s rising but because we’re mainstream now.
That’s the opportunity folks see with Venn, a streaming network for shows about gaming and culture. The company announced today that it has raised a $26 million series A, bringing its total raised to $43 million. Seed round investor Bitkraft led the round alongside new funder Nexstar Media Group, with participation from seed investors Eldridge, Wise Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, and Josh Kroenke (son of Los Angeles Rams owner and mogul Stan Kroenke).<
But the key here is Nexstar. It's the biggest owner of TV stations in the United States (think of it as a bigger Sinclair without the right-wing political bias). Venn's business is about putting its shows on TV, streaming devices like Roku, and platforms like Plex — it doesn't look at Twitch as its main distribution platform. With this funding, Nexstar will become the exclusive local TV broadcaster for Venn and have a member on its board.
How key is gaming to our culture now? Politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are using gaming to get out the vote. Pundits might say she's just being savvy in how she reaches out to young people, but this is more about Cortez growing up with games and knowing how to talk to her peers (or constituents, in this case). These are the people Venn is targeting as well, and brands such as Subway, Adidas, and DraftKings are signing up to better target the same audience.
Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun)
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 19, 2020
Venn is also adding to its leadership team with executive vice president and general manager Jeff Jacobs. Jacobs previously worked at MTV, where he was vice president in charge of production. At Viacom, he was senior vice president of the music and entertainment group’s linear and digital channels. His background in content development should help Venn launch more shows, or at least rejigger its current lineup.
Venn launched in August and features shows like Guest House, in which gaming folks and content creators come on and, in essence, make their own show. Its current slate of shows also includes Grey Area with Sasha Grey and rapper Jon Park. It’s essentially like ESPN’s Around the Horn game show, but about gaming, social media, and culture.