The funding brings VENN to $43 million total raised to date. The latest round was led by broadcaster Nexstar Media Group and esports investment fund Bitkraft, which had previously invested in VENN’s seed round. Others contributing to the Series A included Eldridge Industries, WISE Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group and Josh Kroenke, vice chairman of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (owner of the NFL’s L.A. Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets and other sports franchises).
Nexstar, as part of its strategic investment, secured an exclusive local TV broadcasting content and sales agreement for VENN’s 24-hour network and has the right to appoint a member to VENN’s board of directors. Nexstar operates 197 stations in the U.S., along with digital multicast networks and a network of digital properties.
“Gaming and esports are two fast-growing sectors and through our investment we plan to distribute VENN content across our broadcast platform to address a younger audience,” Tom Carter, Nexstar’s president, COO and CFO, said in a statement.
L.A.-based VENN was founded in 2018 by Ben Kusin, an entrepreneur and game-industry veteran, and Ariel Horn, who hails from Riot Games and NBC Sports. The linear gaming and esports network is available on Roku’s Roku Channel, Amazon’s Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming, Twitter, Plex, LG (via Comcast’s Xumo), Samsung TV Plus and Vizio.
In addition to funding, VENN announced the hiring of MTV alum Jeff Jacobs as EVP and general manager. Most recently, Jacobs ran his own sports and entertainment production company, Skyline New Media, after working at Viacom and MTV for more than 15 years and most recently was SVP, production planning, strategies and operations for Viacom Media Networks’ Music and Entertainment Group.
“With this new funding round, VENN is positioned for its next phase of growth as we plan to further expand our content creation capabilities and continue to enhance the distribution of our ‘instant and everywhere’ viewing experience,” Kusin, who is co-CEO alongside horn, said in a statement.