Discovery Founder Launching SVOD Service Described as Netflix "For Curious People"

John Hendricks

John Hendricks, who retired from Discovery last year, has commissioned 'Big Picture Earth' as the first original production for CuriosityStream.

John Hendricks, who pioneered non-fiction and reality television in the mid-1980s as founder and leader of Discovery Communications (as president or chairman) until he retired last year, announced a new over-the-top venture Wednesday called CuriosityStream, that he calls “a Netflix type service for curious people.”

“The real revolution begins now when we start originally producing for these SVOD menus,” declares Hendricks, 62, who no longer has any role at Discovery Communication except as a holder of just under two percent of the company’s stock.

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Hendricks has been ahead of the crowd throughout his career. He was the first to test the concept of video on  demand more than twenty years ago; and was among the first to produce content in high definition even before HD TV sets were available.

He sees CuriosityStream as the next step.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for so long – people watching what they want to watch when they have time to watch it,” says Hendricks. “Finally this platform is ideal for it. This is kind of my chapter two.” 

CuriosityStream  launches March 18 offering a mix of short-form and long-form content, all unscripted or reality shows. It will feature programs built around science, technology, civilization and according to the announcement, “the human spirit.”

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Hendricks said most will have a host or celebrity to help tell the stories.

The first show already underway is Big Picture Earth, which will be shot in 4K (the highest HD available). It is  targeted to be available in September. About 20 episodes are planed ranging in length from 18 minutes to an hour.

Shows don’t have to be in 30 or 60-minute increments. “The nice thing about SVOD,” says Hendricks, “is you don’t have any time constraints.”

Two other series in the works are Digits, which will look at the history of computers in six or eight parts of one hour each; and Deep Time History, which will  have six or eight one-hour episodes.

All of the original content will be exclusively on CuriosityStream for the first six months to a year and then will be marketed to TV and cable worldwide.  

“It will be the reverse of what has been happening where SVOD gets the second window,” says Hendricks.

The plan is to have about one-third of the content presented as originals with the rest acquired from various sources. That will include documentaries as well as shorts and series. Some programming is being acquired from the  BBC, NHK, ZED, Terra Noa and Flame Distribution.

There will be about 800 titles available at launch for the service which will cost consumers $2.99 per month for standard resolution and $3.99 per month to $9.99 per month for high definition streams.

It will all be advertising free, says Hendricks: “I don’t want to be driven by ratings. I’ve always been impressed by subscription supported television like HBO. Through the years it has been able to just program for their audience and take risks like they did with John Adams and Game of Thrones. I’m anxious to program for subscribers and let them support it without regard to the numbers.”