John Hendricks Sets Launch For Multiscreen SVOD Service

John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel and former chairman of Discovery Communications, “retired” last May. The cable programming vet didn’t stay on the sidelines for long.

Hendricks, now the head of a venture called Curiosity Project LLC, on Wednesday introduced CuriosityStream, a multiscreen subscription video-on-demand service that will be sold at various pricing levels based on video quality  – from standard-def and HD, all the way to 4K/Ultra HD.

Billed as the “world’s first on-demand, ad-free content streaming service delivering premium factual content in the areas of science, technology, civilization, and the human spirit,” CuriousityStream will start at $2.99 per month for SD streaming, $3.99 per month for 720p, $5.99 per month for 1080 HD, and $9.99 per month for 4K.

It’s set to launch on March 18 with a library of more than 800 video titles, including fare that will be available in 4K out of the chute. Interested consumers can go to the site now to preview the service and sign up ahead of the official debut.

CuriosityStream said it will feature original commissions, documentaries and series from the BBC, NHK, ZED, Terra Noa, and Flame Distribution, and offer expert interviews and original short form programming.

On the tech end, Limelight Networks, a content delivery network company, will provide the cloud hosting for CuriosityStream, and will support a variety of formats for deliver to connected devices such as PCs and laptops, tablets and smartphones. The service will also be offered on the Apple TV, Roku platform and will be optimized for the Google Chromecast (up to HD resolution).

Hendricks said the SVOD offering fulfills a vision.

"As many in the industry know, I have long dreamed of a content-on-demand service that uses advanced media to empower the enduring human desire to understand the Universe and the world around us,” he said in a statement. “The advent of online streaming technology utilized by Netflix and other successful video streaming services has created a video transmission infrastructure that finally allows viewers to watch what they want to watch, when they want to watch it.”

Steve Burns, an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer who is late of National Geographic Channels,  WNET, Discovery Networks, and Science Channel, is heading CuriosityStream’s programming team.

The SVOD service, to be offered initially in North America, has already commissioned the production of series such as Big Picture Earth, a 20-part 4K series to be produced by David Conover, the filmmaker behind Sunrise Earth, that will feature sites such as Stonehenge, Icelandic caves, “the curiosities of Central Park,” and the canals of Venice.

Other titles include Digits (history of computers and the Internet, and Deep Time History (a series on great people and events), and Life 2000 Meters Under the Sea (ZED), Madagascar: The Lost Makay (Terra Noa), The Twilight of Civilizations (Terra Noa), and Men and Machines That Beat Hitler (BBC Worldwide).

Hendricks has served as chairman and founder of Discovery Communications, before and including the launch of the Discovery Channel on June 17, 1985. He stepped down as CEO in 2004 and remained chairman of the board through his retirement last year.