TCA 2019: John Hendricks Predicts SVOD ‘Streaming Wars’ This Year

Subscription on demand streaming services are headed for a battle royale in the next year as a slew of digital streaming services compete to lead the category's disruption of the traditional television business, according to CuriosityStream chairman John Hendricks.

Hendricks, who spoke Saturday during CuriosityStream’s Television Critics Association winter press tour presentation, likened the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and its disruption of the traditional cable business to that of cable’s emergence in the 1980s when networks like Discovery Channel — which Hendricks launched in 1985 — disrupted the established broadcast networks.

“Actually, 92 percent of the audience was tuned to one of the three large broadcasters each night back then, but by ’87, it was clear this was the wave of the future, and it was clear that a majority of viewers would migrate toward cable,” Hendricks said. “Today, we’re witnessing that same kind of phenomenon [with SVOD services.]”

But Hendricks warned that the growing lineup of SVOD services will battle for limited consumer dollars, adding that the companies that can distinguish themselves in one or more of the four big content categories — movies and scripted content, sports content, factual, and general entertainment — will ultimately survive the upcoming streaming wars.

Hendricks predicted current or planned streaming services from Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple, AT&T/WarnerMedia and Comcast as the eventual survivors of the streaming wars, with several low-cost services remaining in play to be bundled into one or several other services. He added CuriosityStream is focused on cornering the factual category, with more than 2,100 non-fiction titles, 800 of which are original.

“For us, we want to be priced so that we can layer on top of these offerings very inexpensively, because the consumer doesn’t have an endless budget,” Hendricks said. “I think in our future will be some kind of alignment with one of those six.”

The service is also well positioned with the next generation of TV consumers: 54% of CuriosityStream’s subscribers are millennials, according to Hendricks. The network hopes to continue to appeal to that audience with both short-form and long-form factual and non-fiction programming.

As part of its original programming lineup, the network this spring will launch Speed, a four-part series that will examine the science and history of humankind’s need to move as fast as possible.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.