Silver Spring Company Offers On-Demand Educational Films

If the Trump administration makes good on its threat to cut funding for public television, there’s a Silver Spring-based company ready to provide viewers with on-demand educational programming.

CuriosityStream, a two-year-old firm started and owned by Discovery’s founder and former chairman John Hendricks, offers more than 1,500 (and counting) documentaries and other nonfiction programming via most streaming devices.

“It really is carrying the same original mission of our founder,” said Peter North, the company’s chief operating officer. “He’s always been looking for programming that will help enlighten everyone who watches it.”

The service is available in 196 countries by subscription with plans starting as low $2.99 a month. The films are focused on subjects such as science, history, technology and nature.

The company licenses shows from outside filmmakers around the globe, but much of what’s available is original programming.

CuriosityStream’s newest production, “Miniverse,” will debut on Monday. The show features former astronaut Chris Hadfield, who became a YouTube star with a video of him performing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” while floating in the International Space Station.

The company describes the film this way: “What if you could get behind the wheel and race through space? We scale down the Solar System to the continental United States and place the planets along the way to better appreciate the immense scale of the Universe.”

The company’s programming offers a different business model than typical television channels.

“Television is moving in a different direction, pursuing ad revenue through cable distribution,” North said. “We have a direct relationship with our subscribers. It’s totally ad-free.

“It’s not only great for our members who watch it, it’s great for filmmakers as well,” he continued. “They don’t have to produce films that have ad breaks carefully inserted every seven minutes, or have been expanded or contracted to fit a 60- or 30-minute television schedule.”

The company picks films individually rather than follow a common streaming service practice of bulk licensing a number of films from a single source.

“We want every film in our library to be a gem, so we pick them one at a time,” North said. “We try to be careful with those and make sure that we’re covering all of the subject areas that we promise, which are science, technology, civilization and human spirit, which is a category more about adventure and exploration.”

CuriosityStream’s service is available Xbox One, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices, with app releases for LG, Sony and Samsung Smart TVs expected this spring and summer.

In a March press release issued upon the company’s two-year anniversary, Hendricks said, “We are on track to meet a near-term goal of 1 million subscribers, and we are confident that CuriosityStream will reach a long-term goal of achieving more than 30 million subscribers by 2026.”

Below are some of the company’s most popular titles so far. Graphic courtesy CuriosityStream.


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