Power

How to build a post-cable TV network from quarantine

Shut out of one of its studios, gaming TV network Venn is fast-tracking its launch with a remote workforce.

Exterior of Venn's LA studios

Venn's Los Angeles studio is built out, but amid coronavirus lockdowns, it's unclear when it'll be put to use.

Photo: Courtesy of Venn

Under normal circumstances, Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin would be at 3 World Trade Center right about now, wielding an oversized pair of scissors, ready to cut an equally outsized ribbon, to symbolically open the New York studio for their new technology and media venture. Venn will be a video game news and entertainment network — a kind of Cheddar, but for gaming, esports and related entertainment content.

"Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth," quipped Kusin, channeling Mike Tyson, in an interview with Protocol this week.

Horn and Kusin, both video game industry veterans, had plans to go live with Venn by the end of the summer, with studios in Los Angeles and New York. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the duo had to shift gears. But instead of postponing their launch plans, they actually accelerated them to respond to skyrocketing demand for both streaming entertainment and video gaming while everyone is hunkered down at home. "It's become evident that our audience really needs this type of entertainment," Kusin said. "We decided to launch Venn beta."



Protocol Cloud, your weekly guide to the future of enterprise computing. Sign up now.



Venn will launch in July. Now, the two co-founders and co-CEOs have to figure out how to build a TV network from self-isolation, and launch it into a world that may or may not still be on lockdown this summer. "It's a technical challenge, but also an ethical one," Horn said, explaining that the company was looking for ways to keep both contributors and operational staff safe.

A TV network for people who prefer to watch Twitch

Venn first emerged from stealth last September, when Horn and Kusin announced that they had raised a $17 million seed round of funding, with plans to launch a TV network for an audience that doesn't watch much regular TV anymore. With a mix of esports, gaming news and video game-related entertainment, the network wants to appeal to Twitch viewers and gamers alike.

With that audience in mind, Venn is also foregoing traditional cable deals in order to embrace streaming. The company is talking to both traditional cable operators and internet TV services, but also plans to go live online, and repackage some of its content for social networks.

Venn's biggest challenge will be to produce something that's appealing to its core audience, while at the same time standing apart from all the other content already available on Twitch, Mixer and other similar services. To this end, the company is looking to work with top gaming talent and other celebrities and has brought on former Fullscreen director Aaron Godfred as its senior vice president of development.

Venn's original plan had been to air some 55 hours of live content per week, much of it produced in its Los Angeles and New York studios. However, in recent weeks, New York became the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., and the company won't have access to its New York space for the foreseeable future. The Los Angeles studio is fully operational, and housed in a live production studio complex that's been used by networks like HBO, Nickelodeon and Freeform in the past. However, it's still unclear how much it can be utilized once Venn's launch date arrives. "We don't know when they can come back into the studio environment," said Horn.

Plan B: A distributed workforce, and a studio in a box

That's where plan B comes in: Come July 1, Venn will launch in beta, with 30-some hours of live programming per week. Much of that programming will be produced by talent at home, and some of it will include existing footage licensed from Twitch streamers, repackaged in a more TV-like fashion. Think motion graphics, better video quality, tighter cuts.

Studio in a box Gaming TV network Venn sent its talent a studio in a box to prepare for remote broadcasts.Photo: Courtesy of Venn

To build out its remote production workforce, Venn started sending care packages to some of its talent in recent days: lights, a better camera and a connection kit, all sandwiched into a Pelican case — a studio in a box, if you will. The plan, for now, is to have talent shoot their feeds remotely, and then have some folks in the Los Angeles production space help tie it all together.

"We will have very few talent in the studio," Horn said, explaining that the company was still trying to figure out how to set up a safe production environment. "It's a matter of how do we do it the right way?"



Get in touch with us: Share information securely with Protocol via encrypted Signal or WhatsApp message, at 415-214-4715 or through our anonymous SecureDrop.



As Venn looks to launch out of lockdown, much of the media world has moved to a plan that looks quite similar. News anchors and late-night hosts are moderating their shows from their living rooms, and the guests who would typically debate each other in the studio now do so via Skype and Zoom. Kusin joked that much of this programming already looks like esports.

As for Venn, the company plans to announce talent and distribution deals in the coming weeks. It also just signed on Kroenke Sports as a new investor and is in the process of raising a Series A round of funding — all the while the world is on lockdown. Said Kusin: "I can't believe this is happening now, but nevertheless, it is happening."

Fintech

Gavin Newsom shows crypto some California love

“A more flexible approach is needed,” Gov. Newsom said in rejecting a bill that would require crypto companies to get a state license.

Strong bipartisan support wasn’t enough to convince Newsom that requiring crypto companies to register with the state’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation is the smart path for California.

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

The Digital Financial Assets Law seemed like a legislative slam dunk in California for critics of the crypto industry.

But strong bipartisan support — it passed 71-0 in the state assembly and 31-6 in the Senate — wasn’t enough to convince Gov. Gavin Newsom that requiring crypto companies to register with the state’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation is the smart path for California.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Workplace

Slack’s rallying cry at Dreamforce: No more meetings

It’s not all cartoon bears and therapy pigs — work conferences are a good place to talk about the future of work.

“We want people to be able to work in whatever way works for them with flexible schedules, in meetings and out of meetings,” Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua told Protocol at Dreamforce 2022.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dreamforce is primarily Salesforce’s show. But Slack wasn’t to be left out, especially as the primary connector between Salesforce and the mainstream working world.

The average knowledge worker spends more time using a communication tool like Slack than a CRM like Salesforce, positioning it as the best Salesforce product to concern itself with the future of work. In between meeting a therapy pig and meditating by the Dreamforce waterfall, Protocol sat down with several Slack execs and conference-goers to chat about the shifting future.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

But with growth comes growing pains. Los Angeles, especially the burgeoning Silicon Beach area — which includes Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey — shares something in common with its namesake Silicon Valley: a severe lack of housing.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Policy

SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Latest Stories
Bulletins