The Launch of Venn: A new era for gaming and OTT

5 August 2020

Alexandra Tsoi

It’s a new beginning

Having been into video games for the majority of my life, I’ve noticed a recent shift in mainstream behaviour that is putting this pastime of mine on the map. It used to be the case that video games were only spoken about negatively in the media – people arguing that they’re too violent or promoting addictive behaviours. However a change has happened recently where the media have begun speaking about not only video games in a more positive manner, but also the gamers themselves and the streaming platforms we use to create, maintain and enjoy our community.

The one that started them all

There are plenty of streaming platforms out there, but the big dogs are Twitch, Youtube and Facebook Gaming. However none are bigger than Twitch. According to a recent report from Streamlabs, Twitch smashed a personal record in Q2 with a massive 62.7% increase in hours watched compared to the previous quarter. They also had a year over year increase of 83.1%. Twitch now represents 67.6% market share (up 2.6% from last quarter) compared to the other platforms.

That is a whole load of eyeballs on this platform. I just went onto the site now to check how many people are online whilst I’m writing this blog, and in the top four categories alone, there are over 600,000 people watching Twitch content. 

With this amount of viewership, it’s no wonder that new gaming TV network VENN is taking full advantage – and not only of Twitch but also of their rivals too. 

VENN’s Over-the-Top Business Model

Launching today, VENN will be a 24-hour, free-to-watch linear network available on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming and even Twitter. When it comes to what type of content we can expect, their website states: “original programming produced in-house and in partnership with some of the biggest names and creators across the gaming, pop culture and lifestyle spaces”. It’s a bit hush hush at the moment but with items in the schedule called “The Download”, “Guest House” and “Venn Arcade”, I suspect we will be seeing some news, some industry veteran opinions and some gameplay. 

In the future, the company has also said it will be coming to dedicated channels on connected-TV platforms. This opens up its audience to a further 30 million U.S. households, including Vizio’s smart TVs, Comcast’s Xumo streaming service, Sinclair’s STIRR and DistroTV. The founders have said that their business model is custom built for the over-the-top era.

When I say over-the-top I do mean in both senses of the phrase; over-the-top as seen in the broadcasting space (OTT) , and over-the-top in terms of… it’s a lot. To have a 24/7 live stream across the major streaming platforms and also potentially connected TVs as well is a big undertaking. But it’s one that seemed inevitable to me. A video game focused TV network also seemed inevitable. 

There’s always competition

Just when VENN may have thought they’d be launching a unique network, G4 made a cryptic tweet that can’t have been anything else than a comeback announcement. 

G4 was an American TV Network all about gaming that ran from 2002 to 2014. It has a relatively long, and difficult history, but overall it provided an almost secretive and yet accepting space for people to obsess over “nerdy” and “lame” things (it also kickstarted Olivia Munn’s career as she was the host of one of its main shows Attack of the Show!). 

I know many people are excited for this network to come back. I also know that many are concerned because why would a network make a comeback during a time when linear cable is seen as a dying medium? Well, this is when we circle back to OTT. 

The two take-aways

This news marks two major industry changes for me:

  1. Gaming is stepping ever closer to the point where it will be seen and respected as a mainstream form of entertainment.

I will be extremely happy when people will be as excited to talk about the next big game as they are to talk about the next big film. At this point, I’d even be extremely happy if people even knew what the next big game is! (I am shocked by how few know about Cyberpunk 2077… they have Keanu Reeves, guys! KEANU REEVES!) 

A dedicated TV network that is viewable pretty much everywhere might not be viewed by everyone, but it will definitely help gaming’s reputation. It will show people that not only is gaming obviously just a fun time to be had, but it also houses some of the most revolutionary tech! What games are able to accomplish today would blow people’s minds if they just had a little bit more exposure to it. It also has a truly committed audience that holds incredible power not only in the influential, cultural space but also in terms of broadcasting and advertising.

  1. Over-the-top is being upgraded with streaming platforms

I’ve always wondered why I couldn’t watch a 24/7 news network on Twitter or Twitch or Youtube. It doesn’t seem to make sense to me that these networks aren’t being streamed on streaming platforms. 

With VENN being free to watch on multiple streaming platforms, and potentially on TV in the future, it is paving the way for the future of OTT – you can go from watching the show on your phone through Twitch whilst commuting, to watching it on your laptop through Youtube whilst wrapping up a bit of work, to then finish off the evening by watching it on your Smart TV. The audience is on every device, and so this new network will be too. And G4 will likely follow VENN’s example!

I will be intrigued to see who else will adopt this approach. How many networks will we begin to see branching out into the streaming space?