Warner Bros., fresh off its investment in YouTube multichannel network Machinima, has taken a minority stake in TV4 Entertainment, a startup building a portfolio of special-interest broadband television networks.
The size of the investment is not being disclosed. TV4 Entertainment was founded in 2012 by Jon Cody, previously senior VP of digital for Fox Digital Media and the general manager of Hulu’s launch in 2007.
TV4, under the banner of Television Four, is aiming to create and distribute special-interest broadband channels in genres that are “poorly served” by TV networks today, Cody said.
For Warner Bros., the investment is another move to stay plugged in to the evolving digital-video ecosystem. With its stake in Machinima, the studio is looking to extend its properties to the MCN’s mostly young male demo and potentially develop talent for TV or movie projects. Meanwhile, parent Time Warner had invested in Maker Studios, the YouTube MCN that is being acquired by Disney for at least $500 million.
TV4 has more than 50 content partners and has about 5,000 hours of video in development, according to Cody. The startup is developing “niches that we think there is a passionate audience around,” he said. It has about 30 networks in the works, and expects to launch 15 in 2014.
So far, TV4 has launched channels with shortform content on Hulu, including “McKenna,” with Paul McKenna’s interviews with entertainment-industry personalities including Harvey Weinstein and Simon Cowell; Combat Aviation, featuring footage of U.S. military aircraft; and documentary channel DoComTV.
Cody shuns the MCN label, saying that TV4 is looking to create content that is higher quality than what is available on YouTube. “It’s like a miniature of what Fox Digital was, but for the broadband era,” Cody said. That said, TV4 has a YouTube presence. “We can build audience on the backs of others,” he said.
In addition to Warner Bros.’s investment, TV4 has received angel funding. Cody declined to disclose investors or amount raised to date. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup has 15 employees.