In late 2018, when Jon Cody first started sharing his idea of a streaming service focusing exclusively on health content, some of his audiences were skeptical. Nobody questioned the increasing appetite for health-related content, nor the commercial potential. The concerns were around the medium itself.
“Streaming was the thing your kids were doing, right?” he recalled.
But when COVID-19 accelerated healthcare’s digital transition and triggered a broader reliance on technology, Cody’s vision proved prescient. Streaming, to parrot his phrasing, was now the thing you and your kids and your parents and everyone else was doing.
“A couple of things have happened globally that make the idea make more sense today than it did two or three years ago,” Cody noted. “Streaming is undeniable now that Disney and HBO and a lot of the other big guys have jumped in. That world is a lot less clunky.”
With today’s launch of Digital Health Networks, the company enters the streaming mix with an ambitious offering primed to take advantage of the aforementioned trends in healthcare and technology. Showcasing a wealth of programming from organizations like the Mayo Clinic, the Cancer Research Institute and South Florida PBS’ The Health Channel, DHN aims to inform, inspire and entertain in equal parts.
“People are going to come to us for one purpose and stay for a bunch of others,” Cody said. “Maybe you want information on breast cancer and end up taking a look at ‘Living on the Veg.’ There’s no single way we expect people to experience this.”
Indeed, DHN arrives fully formed, with a user-friendly interface (courtesy of platform partner Switch Media) and far more content than one would expect from a streaming startup. Other health media plays have been limited by the both the volume and the consistency (both in terms of production quality and tenor) of their offerings. DHN, on the other hand, has unified around storytelling, even for its most clinical-minded content.
Take “The Human Body,” created in conjunction with Blausen, which owns a library of medical and scientific illustrations as well as 3D animations. From that abundant source material, DHN has created some 330 shorts about everything from hair loss to inguinal hernias.
Other content available at launch includes “Redesign My Brain,” “The New Science of Food” and “The Surgeon & the Soldier.” There are channels devoted to mental health, addiction and cancer, as well as ones specifically catering to medical professionals and parents. Cody expects the number of channels to expand to 25 by the end of 2022.
“Our purpose is healthcare stories,” Cody stressed. “Through those stories, we’re trying to help people to understand what their options may be, along the lines of, ‘Hey, whatever it is I’m facing, I’m not alone in this process.’ We’re not sitting here being doctors.”
The content slate will expand further during 2022 with a host of original content from DHN Studios, the company’s dedicated production arm. With studio space in Austin and Los Angeles (and New York City and Washington D.C. soon to follow), DHN Studios has already started production on “This Week in Healthcare,” “Going Broke to Stay Alive” (which will explore the undercovered realm of financial healthcare toxicity) and “Horizons” (billed as “a docuseries on the innovations of the near future in healthcare”).
“We think our advantages are scale, our production capabilities and experience. It’s hard to put something like this together if you haven’t done this before,” Cody said. He’s clearly qualifies: an attorney who served on the staff of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, Cody has worked for Fox Entertainment Group and was founder and CEO of TV4 Entertainment.
DHN launches into a market more or less devoid of direct competitors, though there’s some topical overlap with The Able Channel and SurvivorNet. Cody declines, however, to share the company’s viewership goals.
“I have expectations for numbers, of course,” he said. “But it’s easy to get somebody to come; what’s important is what they do when they’re here. I don’t need to see X million people, but I need to see a rabid audience that has taken to this brand and really held on to it.”
“To some extent, we’re competing for people’s time with the Netflixes and Hulus of the world,” Cody continued. “But we want you to turn this on as a streaming service, not just as a medical service. I think we’re going to surprise some people.”