Streaming service CuriosityStream has been growing its distribution rapidly and intends to continue doing so with new CEO Clint Stinchcomb at the helm.
CuriosityStream is an SVOD serving up nonfiction programming focused on science, history, nature and technology. It was launched in 2015 by Discovery founder John Hendricks. Since that time, the service has been adding new third-party distribution deals at a healthy clip, including a recent deal with YouTube TV.
Stinchcomb, who has been CEO for about one month but has been at the company for more than a year, is eager to keep growing CuriosityStream both in the U.S. and internationally. But don’t call what CuriosityStream is doing a “niche.” Stinchcomb said that CuriosityStream’s factual programming touches on numerous subjects and has broad appeal.
“About 40% of the television viewing market will come out for great factual programming,” said Stinchcomb. “We are the factual solution. We’re not chasing a niche. There’s a knee-jerk reaction to call what we do a niche. We’re a big category the same way movies and sports are a category.”
FierceVideo recently spoke with Stinchcomb about how CuriosityStream intends to keep growing its distribution partnerships, content library and subscriber base.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
FierceVideo: How does CuriosityStream continue expanding?
Stinchcomb: We’ve done over 30 third-party distribution agreements over the past year, and we just announced a major agreement with StarHub in Singapore. What you’ll see in the short term and over the long term are more multiyear, global distribution partnerships. I’ve been around for a while, and I can remember when Discovery was initially going international and it was a real challenge. It was a real slog to go into a country, set up all your operations, lease additional transponder space and acquire all new content rights. The beauty of [Hendricks’] vision is he built this thing for global distribution right out of the gate.
FierceVideo: What specifically did he do from the outset that had CuriosityStream primed for international expansion?
Stinchcomb: It’s a couple of things. The first was to ensure that we had global content rights to as much content as possible. Whenever you start anything new in the media space, you typically go out and try to acquire a critical mass of programming. That’s the quickest way to have a compelling consumer proposition.
After that, we began to originally create and produce content. And obviously, with originals, you own it and everything about it so you have ultimate flexibility. Because we’re able to convey a broad scope of content rights to distributors, they like that because that gives them pricing and packaging flexibility that the old media networks just can’t deliver.
At the same time, you can have global content rights but if the content doesn’t have global appeal, then it’s not really worth anything. The programming we do has demonstrated massive global appeal when it comes to science, history, nature, civilization, the human spirit; these are themes and categories that have resonated globally since the dawn of time.
FierceVideo: Is that the long-term strategy for CuriosityStream? Making content that travels well?
Stinchcomb: We’re cognizant of creating certain programming that has appeal to particular markets, but so much of what we do has global appeal. There’s a lot of opening right for what you might call enlightening entertainment, because everybody has just gone so far down market. Everyone has gone so far chasing lowest-common-denominator reality programming.
FierceVideo: How does CuriosityStream continue expanding its content library? Do you open up to new areas of interest or explore emerging formats like VR?
Stinchcomb: I don’t know if you saw the recent VR experience we put out there, “Nefertari’s Tomb”? It’s really a great example. Look, not all of us have the opportunity to go over to Egypt. We have competing obligations in our life. I’d love to hop a flight to Cairo but, you know, it does not really fit in with my lifestyle. But you can experience Nefertari’s tomb through the VR experience we created.
I don’t know what the exact business plan today is for VR, but our feeling is that it’s something that consumers are gravitating to and as they gravitate to it, we want to be right there for them. It’s an important component of our overall business, and we work closely with a company called Experius that we have an interest in.
FierceVideo: What is CuriosityStream’s marketing strategy right now, and how will it change over time?
Stinchcomb: Our intent is to reach a level at some point in the future where we’re spending $100 million a year in marketing, because there’s a lot of services and competition for eyeballs. Today, we do everything from very targeted digital to 30-second television spots. What you’ll see from us in the fourth quarter of this year, or actually a little bit before that, is a strong approach to television marketing. We’re always trying to be very smart about what we’re doing in the digital space, but we’ve found over the last year and a half that, believe it or not, when we crank up our traditional television spend, it has a real impact on subscriber growth.
FierceVideo: How many of CuriosityStream’s subscribers are direct signups versus people who join via third parties?
Stinchcomb: I would say that, from a macro level, we’re about 50-50 international and U.S. for website traffic. Nearly a third of our subscribers are millennials. Other groups that we do well with are young families, what we call info seekers in the 25 to 44 crowd, and lifelong learners as well.
So, it does have broad appeal. At the same time, it has a lasting appeal.