As my generation and those below 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. It’s mainstream not because it’s rising but because we’re mainstream now, not Boomers.
And that’s the opportunity that folks see with Venn, a streaming network for shows about gaming and culture. The company announced today that it’s raised a $26 million series A. Seed round investor Bitkraft led the round with a new funder, Nextstar Media Group, with participation from seed investors Eldridge, Wise Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, Josh Kroenke (son of Los Angeles Rams owner and mogul Stan Kroenke).
But the key here is Nextstar. 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). And Venn’s business is about putting its shows on TV, streaming devices like Roku, and other platforms like Plex. It doesn’t look at Twitch as its main distribution platform. So with this funding, Nextstar becomes the exclusive local TV broadcaster for Venn, and it will have a member on its board.
With this round, Venn has raised $43 million so far.
How key is gaming to our culture now? Politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are using gaming to get out the vote. Now, some pundits would say she’s just being savvy in how she reaches out to young people, but this is more about how Cortez grew up with games and knowing how to talk to her peers (or constituents, in this case). And these are the people Venn is targeting as well — everyone who is of the generations that grew up with games. And brands such as Subway, Addidas, and DraftKings are signing up to better target those audiences.
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 some stats to its leadership team with Jeff Jacobs, its new executive vice president and general manager. Jacobs has worked with MTV, where he was an executive in charge of the production of shows. And at Viacom, he was its 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 rejigger its current lineup.
Venn launched in August. It has productions like Guest House, in which folks from gaming or content creators like streamers come on and, in essence, make their own show. Another show is 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.