TBI deputy editor Mark Layton talks to Clint Stinchcomb, president & CEO at US-based CuriosityStream, about taking the factual SVOD public, quadrupling its programming offer and keeping competitive in an increasingly direct-to-consumer world.
Last month was a big one for US-based CuriosityStream, with the global factual streamer announcing its intention go public on the NASDAQ stock exchange by the fourth quarter of this year.
The move – accomplished by a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Software Acquisition Group – will leave the newly combined company well capitalised, with zero debt and an estimated $180m of cash on the balance sheet on closing.
CuriosityStream, which has more than 13 million paying subscribers in over 175 countries, specialises in factual content, ranging from science and technology to history, natural history and lifestyle programming. It has a current library of over 3,100 on-demand titles, including more than 900 originals such as Pompeii: Disaster Street, Prehistoric Worlds and Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places.
This new influx of capital has positioned the streamer to substantially increase its current offerings and CuriosityStream’s president and CEO Clint Stinchcomb tells TBI that the company is unsurprisingly feeling “really good about our future”.
“We will be able to spend more money on programming and marketing,” says Stinchcomb, revealing that’s where the “overwhelming majority” of the new funding is being directed, with CuriosityStream planning to increase its content library up to 12,000 titles over the next five years, through a mix of original programming and acquisitions.
Stinchcomb reveals that the actual figure on the balance sheet is “still a little bit TBD right now,” though the company is “cautiously optimistic” it will be left with the $180m figure that was circulated last month. He explains that this is because “part of merging with an SPAC, or blank check company, [is that] not every investor who is in that SPAC is required to come along. So, typically, you’ll have some percentage of redemptions.”
Whatever the exact figure, what is certain is that the merger has left CuriosityStream with a solid foundation from which to accelerate its growth. While quadrupling the content on offer might sound ambitious, where original programming is concerned, CuriosityStream does not lack for ideas.
I think there’s still today a lot of value in being an incredibly reliable destination for people who are looking for pure factual content
Clint Stinchcomb, CuriosityStream CEO and president
“We have a whiteboard of around a thousand that we’d like to do,” says Stinchcomb. “We have a great content team here, about 15 people who everyday are focused on what do we need to do to acquire, create, develop, produce the best factual content that we can across a broad range of formats. So they have no shortage of original ideas, no shortage of solicitations around original ideas.”
However, having a suddenly bulging bank balance does not mean that CuriosityStream is planning to stray from its roots by further diversifying its content, but rather to use the funds to expand and enhance upon what is already on offer. “We’re a pure-play factual provider and we never want to drift too far from what that means,” says Stinchcomb. “I think there’s still today a lot of value in being an incredibly reliable destination for people who are looking for pure factual content. We’re not trying to be anything that we’re not.”
Despite its generous number of originals, around two-thirds of CuriosityStream’s content is acquired. With so many companies increasingly starting to take their own shows direct-to-consumer, where does that leave CuriosityStream’s content library?
Stinchcomb says that they always aim to sign long-term agreements on any of its acquired programming, including a “really broad scope of rights” that allows them to remain flexible. He adds that even though the company is creating a lot more original content, CuriosityStream will “continue to be opportunistic and aggressive on the acquisitions side, because while the big originals tend to bring people into the service, the quantity and the quality of your content is what keeps people coming back.”
Powering through the pandemic
Like most streamers, CuriosityStream noted a sharp rise in viewership when the pandemic hit and people began to spend more time at home.
“In the first quarter of this year, we added more subscribers than the company had added in the first two years of its operation,” reveals Stinchcomb.
More than that, he reveals that Covid-19 didn’t really slow the company down as it quickly pivoted to remote working and maintained a core team in the office after being deemed an essential service. Stinchcomb says that acquisitions and content generated from existing assets carried on pretty much as normal and reveals that CuriosityStream is currently in production in around 20 different countries.
“As a company we were accelerating into the pandemic and thankfully we’ve been able to power through,” he says. “Our edit days are filled through the end of January right now. We’re really excited about original productions that we’re in now, ranging from a big biography series that we have called Beyond The Lights to Man Vs Time to Mega Machines, so there’s a lot going on. It’s really quite exciting.”