With a background that spans Fox, Hulu and the FCC, Jon Cody understands television in and out. After leaving Fox, Jon founded TV4 Entertainment, a portfolio of broadcast television networks and original content. Erik Huberman, CEO of Hawke Media, talks to Jon about the future of television, Silicon Beach and TV4 Entertainment.
Erik Huberman: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Jon Cody: I had kind of an epiphany moment after I had been at Fox for 7 years and I had a kid. I had that kid at the very end of my 3-year contract, and I was presented with another 3-year contract extension for a fair amount of money — a couple of million dollars over that three years. I sat back and looked at my kid and thought, if I sign that contract I’m here for the rest of my life. The money would be too good. I really thought I wanted to go try to do something on my own. I’ve always been someone who really blazed the path; I ran policy at 26 at a major government agency. I just felt like I wanted to try something that you build from the ground up. I think that’s it’s relatively easy to operate a $150-million business because you have the resources to do it. The challenge of taking something from idea to completion seemed very fun.
EH: Tell me about TV4 Entertainment.
JC: The company is really built on the theory that online television is the fourth generation of television in the United States. We think that the place that is ripe for most disruption in the television business is the network business. So we go out and build very niche but powerful online video networks where we aggregate high-quality video, or make TV, film, Web series and shorts and wrap a channel brand or network brand around it. The tagline of the company is “Your passion plays here,” so we focus on having an intensely passionate audience that is fully served by traditional television worldwide. While those networks are mostly built off of library product, we also do originals for those networks. We have a big theme around here called “super distribution,” which means that we want our networks and our content that lives on those networks to reach everyone on the Web, whether that’s through social media, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon or us going direct to consumers.
EH: How are you changing the world?
JC: The Internet going to be the first worldwide television distribution network. When you think of the history of television — whether broadcast, cable or satellite — we have yet to have one foundational base wire the world. It’s always been territorial. When we think about programming for worldwide audience as it continues its migration in television, we’re most excited for those countries that have yet to have the second and third generation of television. Now, smartphones can have the capability of turning into a television and reaching an audience with content that is real, interesting and compelling to that community. What we’re about is bringing television to the world.
EH: Why Santa Monica?
JC: We started the company in Hollywood. My co-founder and I both had the need for expansion and wanted the place where we thought we could be for years. We both entrenched ourselves in the Santa Monica startup community because we think we are a unique startup that has both content capabilities and technology capabilities. In Santa Monica, there’s vibrancy, community and the ability to have the windows open and ocean air coming in. We’re in a very interesting spot, location-wise, when you think of Santa Monica. Next door is JJ Abrams and down the street is Jerry Bruckheimer. So there is kind of undiscovered production capabilities in Santa Monica, while also having the technology chops of a vibrant community of Silicon Valley.
EH: Do you have one piece of advice for an entrepreneur starting a business?
JC: I’d want to say two things. First, build a team. You always start with an idea in your head, and the more people you can bring into the idea — whether to validate it or morph it — is kind of vital. We have an ownership culture here; everyone that’s here full-time owns a part of the company. As a result, they probably sacrificed a little more salary-wise than they would have, but they’ve bought into the vision and now they’re driving the company. The second thing I’d have to say is, you have to understand what it’s like to weather the storm. You have to live in a world that the highs don’t get you too high, or the lows too low. What should drive you is the fundamental belief in what you’re doing, not the external factors to it. That ability to stay in the keel, on task and in focus is probably the most important factor of getting a company out of idea stage and into growth stage.
EH: Is there anything you’d like to share with the Santa Monica community?
JC: More than anything, the company is very much grounded in community. For us personally, we’re proud members of this community. As you watch us grow from one room to a building in Santa Monica, our intention is to put our flag down here and be a long-standing member of this community. We want to be part of this community and want this community to be part of us.