From insightful documentaries to current affairs content, iwonder has found itself in a nice little corner in the subscription video on demand (SVOD) market. Launching its new dedicated branded channel on iflix recently, iwonder will feature premium documentary and current affairs content, which will be made available to the streaming service’s 12 million users across 28 markets.
Certainly the streaming market is revolutionising the way the world consumes its content, and thanks to players like iflix, and iwonder, it will only get better in years to come for consumers. Fresh off their launch of iflix, we spoke to Mark Bridges, co-founder of iwonder to find out more about what this new channel is slated to offer.
Congratulations on the launch of the iwonder dedicated channel on iflix. It’s interesting to see that you have focused on providing documentaries and current affairs programmes, why go this route?
We think that companies like iflix and Netflix have done an amazing job in creating general entertainment platforms that are transforming the traditional pay TV industry.
Our research indicates there is a growing demand for high quality documentary stories, especially in a world full of fake news and reality TV. We see the great current affairs programs (i.e.15 to 60 minute news magazine format) put out by BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and others, as an extension of this pool of quality documentary content.
We think that by hand-picking great content, we can engender trust in the iwonder brand as a place to go for engaging and entertaining true stories. This fits well with iflix’s content strategy of delivering world-class entertainment to its users.
Do you foresee more consumers sourcing/viewing these documentaries in the streaming marketplace?
Absolutely. Hollywood films have huge marketing budgets and theatrical releases that drive awareness. Documentaries tend to be much less well known, usually recommended by friends. We think that we can help solve the discovery challenge: how do you find the next great documentary to watch if you loved Hoop Dreams, Icarus or Biggie & Tupac? Then, the challenge is where can you watch these films? You can rent them on iTunes, or for less than the cost of one rental, you can watch hundreds of great documentaries on iwonder on iflix.
Was it hard to source the first slate of documentaries to populate the channel?
iwonder’s Co-Founder and CEO, James Bridges, was previously iflix’s Chief Content Officer and has worked for many years in content licensing. He has deep contacts with documentary distributors and has been working on licensing great titles for iwonder for more than 6 months. We have also been attending key documentary festivals and marketplaces –James actually just finished at Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France scouting for more great content.
What sort of documentaries are you looking for specifically that fits the iwonder mould?
We’re focused on true stories, well told, across the entire range of history, science, nature, biography, crime, and social issues. Current affairs will be core to what we offer. More than half of all feature films produced today are documentaries. That’s not to say that they are all good, and we believe that we can provide value by curating the best content.
You’ll be announcing partnerships with current affairs providers for up-to-date programming, however not many streaming services have offered this as part of their programming. What convinced you that this is the right angle to pursue for iwonder?
News organizations are producing fantastic deep-dive current affairs programs like CNN Presents, BBC Panorama, or Al Jazeera Witness. We think that we can give a second life to this quality content that fits perfectly with our value proposition and will serve as a way to link to other great documentaries. For example, if you watch a CNN current affairs program on the war in Syria, you might be interested to watch the Oscar-winning White Helmets.
In your opinion, do you see streaming surpass normal television programming in years to come?
Yes, I think the trend is heading that way, especially with younger audiences; but that is not to say that traditional pay TV models will go away any time soon. Streaming is simply providing more choice and price competition to the legacy TV companies, and providing consumers new ways to watch the content they love, whether that’s Korean drama or documentaries.
Besides just streaming programmes, do you see the streaming market evolving to offer brands an avenue to market their products and services such as sponsoring or helping to co-produce branded content programmes?
We definitely see brands as part of iwonder’s future. For us those brands would be companies who are already producing content that is relevant to our audience. We think that we can offer traditional documentary brands a new place to exist in the world of shrinking pay TV bundles, and current affairs brands a new engaged audience outside of their own websites. We would certainly hope that these relationship lead to joint productions.
Are there plans for iwonder to uncover and finance productions from talented filmmakers in the future?
We see original programming and exclusive content as a key part of a successful documentary service. We will be engaging with distributors and producers for original content within the next 12 months.