It has been a transformative year for Curiosity. The recently rebranded outfit founded by cable pioneer John Hendricks has seen usage gains on its flagship Curiosity Stream SVOD service, inked new carriage deals for its linear channel, expanded Curiosity Studios’ originals slate and increased its portfolio of assets as it positions itself for further success in a competitive, and fragmented, media landscape. TV Real caught up with Clint Stinchcomb, president and CEO of Curiosity, to discuss the company’s accelerating growth trajectory.
TV REAL: Tell us about the rebrand and what that means for the broader company outside of your SVOD service.
STINCHCOMB: The elevation of “Curiosity” is a recognition of the dynamic and diverse company we have grown to become over the past six years. We are the global entertainment brand for people who want to know more, and our SVOD service, Curiosity Stream, is still the flagship and the foundation of our business. But we provide myriad ways for both viewers and partners to engage with our content—we’re producing more original content than ever—and the time is right to showcase our full suite of offerings.
TV REAL: What led to the Nebula investment, and what does that bring to the company?
STINCHCOMB: Nebula has been a tremendous marketing channel for us for more than a year, so our enhanced partnership and investment are based on the success we’ve already seen working together. It’s the world’s largest creator-owned streaming and technology platform, and they have 140-plus active creators in the “education-y” space who together have over 120 million collective YouTube subscribers. There is natural alignment on our core propositions, and we’re just excited to get more active in what is arguably the most exciting area of media right now with the creator economy.
TV REAL: And what about One Day University?
STINCHCOMB: Similar to Nebula, we’d also had a successful commercial relationship with One Day University, so they were a proven partner for us. One Day University focuses on providing engaging and informative content, so again you see clear strategic alignment, and it expands our factual content proposition. It has many of the same attributes as MasterClass—but our instructors are better. Overall, our strategy for deals like One Day University and Nebula is fairly simple: will it grow our revenue, subscribers and/or our content proposition? These deals also tie back to how we’re thinking about “Curiosity” as a diverse and dynamic brand proposition.
TV REAL: It’s been quite a year for SVOD services! What gains did you see amid lockdowns, and how are you looking to maintain those increases?
STINCHCOMB: Like most streamers, we saw an uptick at the beginning of the pandemic. But what’s more encouraging for us is that, after a full year, our retention rate for the 13 months ended May 2021 was 72 percent—which is higher than every other streamer of consequence. We believe this is due to our quality, uniqueness, value and indispensability. Many consumers consider the spending decision on Curiosity Stream to be outside of their traditional entertainment budget. The content itself and the experience is high-quality, enlightening, family-friendly and offers a great price-value relationship. We’re also not reliant on single shows or series to drive acquisition and retention—people may join us for a particular program or series, but they stay for the breadth and depth of our content.
TV REAL: What are the core subscriber retention tools you use for Curiosity Stream?
STINCHCOMB: Due to the nature of our service, we have an audience that in some cases wants immense breadth and in others wants to be able to dive deep into specific topics. Therefore, we need reflexive strategies that ensure we are serving up what an individual is looking for each time they open up our apps.
We initially serve a new user some of our best content across all of our genres and categories that we know performed well and see what resonates. From there, we can get an idea of what sort of content they are interested in and begin to build a reflexive experience. At a high level, all of this data informs our programming strategy to make sure we have a continuous flow of new content to the platform that we know will feed all these different tastes and appetites.
If we’re doing that correctly, we will see high retention from people who are most active on our apps. We also have to make sure that we reach people outside of our owned-and-operated [platforms]. We have a variety of ways we do that. Our CRM and engagement team uses off-platform content recommendations, retargeted ads and a variety of other mediums to make sure that people are not missing content we think they’re going to be interested in if they have not logged in recently. We are also building out a strong front-of-the-wall content strategy that will keep our audience engaged with us even as they consume content on other platforms beyond Curiosity Stream (like YouTube, FAST platforms and social media).
All of this works together to give us industry-leading retention that we expect to continue to build upon as we focus on driving ever-growing engagement and share of our audience’s watch time.
TV REAL: What’s new at Curiosity Studios? How vital are originals to the service?
STINCHCOMB: I’m excited that we’re producing and releasing more originals this year than we ever have before. Our fall slate is packed, including our first original feature-length film, Heval, which premiered in September. We also have the second season of our original series Beyond the Spotlight—this time featuring some intriguing names in the cultural zeitgeist right now. And of course, we’re always guaranteed to deliver the epic, brand-defining science, history and natural-history titles our viewers love, including the dramatic story of the titans who built Wall Street, a fascinating exploration of biomimicry and a wild tour down the Humboldt Current.
TV REAL: How is your channel doing? What growth do you still see within that pay-TV channel ecosystem?
STINCHCOMB: The channels are doing well and generating more viewership every day. We see considerable growth in the pay-TV ecosystem. It won’t always be in historically traditional forms, but as distributors more aggressively embrace the streaming revolution, we are partnering with them in win-win constructs.
TV REAL: How important are partnerships with telcos and other players as you build out Curiosity Stream’s global SVOD footprint?
STINCHCOMB: These types of partnerships are extremely important to building our global footprint. We view thoughtful bundled partnerships with distributors of scale as key to maximizing our growth; they are clearly key to the growth of any content service.
TV REAL: Amid a market that seems to shift daily, how are you and your team plotting the next stage of Curiosity’s growth?
STINCHCOMB: As a team, we are focused on the day in, day out deliberate and accountable work necessary to build a great company. The field-of-dreams approach, which some large players have tried, doesn’t work. We will showcase more and better original programming in the third and fourth quarters of this year than at any time in the company’s history. We are building a premium factual library of programming that will exceed 10,000 episodes. We are prioritizing certain international markets, like German-speaking Europe. We are making considerable foundational improvements to our tech and engagement enhancements to our UI and UX. And we are complementing our teams with bar-raising performers. As we execute on these initiatives, we will be well-positioned to take advantage of the many growth opportunities in front of us.