John Hendricks will not have the factual streaming space to himself with CuriosityStream, with industry veterans Greg Diefenbach and Thomas Lucas launching an ad-supported, doc-based internet channel in February, XiveTV.
XiveTV is the brainchild of Alliant Content, the distributor and content company founded by producers and factual industry veterans Greg Diefenbach (PBS’s Empires) and Thomas Lucas (Nova’s Monster of the Milky Way).
XiveTV (pronounced ‘Zive’) has been distributed on Hulu in the US and YouTube in a soft launch period. Since February, as well as being on these platforms, it has been a standalone OTT ‘channel’ accessed via iOS and Android apps.
The fact that it exists is a function of better broadband infrastructure and wider tech developments, and the failure of the traditional documentary gatekeepers – the broadcast and cable TV channels – to move into the space.
“Ten years ago we couldn’t have done this, it couldn’t be done without the technology, but the big shock is how slow the doc world has been to embrace consumer-empowering VOD tech, and it is such a natural fit,” says Diefenbach.
“People with niche interests cannot access this content through traditional linear structures, there is no point of consumer entry. If you are passionate about bio-medicine or space it is very hard to find anything on cable and that content is non-existent on broadcast.”
XiveTV organises its programming into different categories, or collections, including Pure History, Pure Nature, Pure Science and Pure Adrenaline. These are organised into a ‘channel’ format and thus far, history is the most popular category, with science growing fast.
Having been on YouTube and catch-up service Hulu in the US, XiveTV has already made some key learnings about factual content consumption in the digital world. Diefenbach says: “We were an early mover and have a data set that tells us about video consumption.” He adds that the Xive team met with some surprises when they saw who was engaging with docs, and how.
“There were a couple of surprises in the VOD space,” he says. “One, that young people are happy to consume longform documentary content. It does skew male, but it does not skew not old. And two, that longform content is happily consumed. The sentiment used to be that people will not watch for more than a few minutes, but we have exploded that myth, and people will watch for 30 minutes or an hour.”
The stickiness of the digitally-accessed docs is caused by the process of selecting the material, according to the Xive cofounder. By connecting and searching for content, the consumer becomes personally invested and committed to their choice in a way that isn’t possible with linear TV, he says.
The launch of XiveTV, CuriosityStream and others gives consumers more choice and is also a boon for producers and distributors.
“XiveTV is very interesting – maybe even a game-changer in our industry,” Brent Montgomery, CEO of factual production giant Leftfield Entertainment said as the service launched. “Everyone wants TV to be searchable, everyone wants TV to be mobile. It’s where TV is going.”
“The XiveTV announcement shows just how fast the world of TV is changing,” Patrick Roberts, senior VP of international sales, North America for distributor DRG added. “We are delighted to see our content on the first dedicated general documentary service in the SVOD/AVOD space.”
XiveTV will either pay a direct license fee or take content on a revenue share basis and currently works with about 30 distributors.
Diefenbach says: “I have worked in distribution and know that the reality is that a significant percentage of the library is not released, not productive. Distributors have been waiting for this opportunity and the audience has been there but couldn’t access the content.
“XiveTV is a marriage between supply and demand.”