John Hendricks’ latest venture is truly one of curiosity. The founder of the Discovery Channel and former chairman of Discovery Communications recently launched an independent venture dubbed CuriosityStream, billed as the world’s first ad-free subscription video on demand (SVOD) service.
CuriosityStream, which went live on March 18, is positioned as a network for “curiosity seekers” across the United States to watch premium factual programs at any time. It is now available to subscribers via Internet-connected TVs, smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes and other mobile devices. The programming focuses on content related to science, technology, civilization and the human spirit. As it is very much aimed at the social media generation, it will use social media in a way that the traditional TV viewing experience has thus far failed to build on.
“Social media is important to CuriosityStream as we have an inherently engaged audience—curious people looking for high-quality factual content—and we are eager to get to know them and introduce them to our incredible and growing library of shows they will love,” says Elizabeth Hendricks North, president of CuriosityStream.
“It’s exciting and gratifying to have so many tools to track the popularity of our shows and be able to react accordingly, to continue providing our subscribers with the factual content that satisfies their many curiosities about our world,” North continues.
About 25 percent of viewers desire more from television than simply amusement. Those are the viewers CuriosityStream hopes to engage.
At launch, programming includes Chopra Love in Action, a 20-part series of interviews by best-selling author Dr. Deepak Chopra with celebrities and scientists on key topics; the eight-part documentary Annihilation: Destruction of Europe’s Jews; Earth: Power of the Planet, a series that focuses on the planet’s landscape, climate and history; and Norman Seeff’s Sessions, a 60-part series that features intimate interviews with famous recording artists, movie directors and writers.
The original content is being produced by what North says are some of the best filmmakers and producers in the business. Video hosting is via Limelight, a global content distribution network, and VIPDesk is managing customer support operations.
There is also the issue of ensuring that the content will appeal to today’s mobile users, who may be very much “lean forward” viewers rather than the traditional “lean back” viewers who watch TV at home. CuriosityStream’s content producers have worked to ensure that the content is relevant for this audience, and that it will remain relevant even days or weeks after it is first offered online.
Content has been formatted to appeal as much to the living room viewer as to those who want to take it in on the go. “From the start, we designed CuriosityStream to provide our subscribers with programming choices—the option to view an hour-long documentary on their TVs at night or to view a two-minute interview segment on their phone while waiting for the subway,” says North.
She adds that as the service debuts, they will monitor viewing habits and then calibrate the length of different types of programming. From that data, they will determine if there is yet another model that could help the subscriber dive deep into a topic at their own pace.
“Perhaps the next model will involve chapterized programs that cater to a new generation that only truly watches 3 to 7 minutes of content at a time,” North suggests. “We will evolve with our subscribers and give them the choices and tools they want to view our shows when and where they want. CuriosityStream looks forward to delivering the very best viewing experiences to curious individuals who possess that enduring human desire to understand our world.”