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Photo: VENN

The Video Game Entertainment and News Network (VENN) will announce Tuesday a $26 million Series A investment round co-led by BITKRAFT Ventures, an eSports and gaming venture capital firm, as well as Nexstar Media Group, executives told Axios.

Why it matters: The network started out in streaming, but will now be moving some of its shows to linear television through its strategic partnership with Nexstar. Large production networks typically operated in the opposite direction — making shows for linear TV and then selling them to streaming distributors later.

The goal of the raise, VENN's co-founders Ben Kusin and Ariel Horn told Axios, is to help expand and broaden VENN's audience using Nexstar's mass reach.

  • Nexstar is one of the largest U.S. broadcast companies, with 197 television stations in 115 markets across the country. It also has a sizeable digital audience, with over 100 local news sites that collectively see over 100 million monthly uniques.
  • With the deal, Nexstar will secure the right to appoint a member to VENN’s board of directors, as well as exclusive rights to broadcast VENN for local television.

Details: Eldridge, WISE Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, and the majority of the companies' existing seed investors also participated in the round.

  • VENN raised its $17 million seed round in September when it launched. Its' streaming deals with platforms like Twitch, YouTube and Snapchat
  • With its Series A raise, the company will also announce that Viacom and NBC Sports veteran Jeff Jacobs, will join the company as EVP & General Manager.
  • Jacobs will oversee VENN’s growth and expansion via its content and business operations.

Between the lines: Horn and Kusin both come from gaming backgrounds.

  • Horn was perviously the Global Head of eSports Content and Executive Producer of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) at Riot Games. (LCS is one of the biggest global Esports franchises.) Kusin was previously an executive at Vivendi Games which later merged with Activision Blizzard.

The big picture: Esports is one of the fastest-growing segments in sports entertainment. The sector is expected to bring in over $1 billion in revenue for the first time this year.

  • Over the past few months, sports broadcasters have leaned into eSports to fill the programming gaps left from professional sports leagues canceling games.
  • "All of traditional media is trying to make itself more future-proof," Kusin said. "This is an attractive crossover moment."
  • Kusin notes that VENN's investment in quality programming, via a top-of-the-line studio and professional Esports analysis makes VENN's shows "palatable for a TV audience but able to pass muster for a streaming generation."

What's next: The company hopes to announce an international expansion in the near future.

Go deeper: Inside the esports investment boom

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 13, 2020 - Sports

Cable TV's slow, painful death

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Cable TV is dying a slow death, and after years of mostly denying that reality, America's major media companies are beginning to hedge their bets and prepare for what comes next.

By the numbers: 25 million homes have cut the cord since 2012, and another 25 million are expected to do so by 2025.

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

Dave Lawler, author of World
38 mins ago - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.