Beyond the Big Five: Sanctuaries for Documentaries

This is the third piece in a month-long series that will explore a number of alternatives to the “Big Five” streaming services (Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Apple, Hulu/Disney+) that have licensed or are open to licensing Canadian content, in English and French, making them viable options in terms of expanding traditional partnerships. While some will prefer to buy from a producer’s library and others will fund or co-fund projects, all are viable options to showcase and spread CanCon across the world. 

The data contained in the series is provided by Wendy Lynn Bernfeld, a digital-sector consultant, frequent jury member, and founder of international content and licensing consultancy Rights Stuff.

Today, we look at OTT platforms that focus on factual and documentary programming.

> Read the other articles in the series

OTT services have expanded the opportunity for storytellers to create engaging factual and documentary-focused works that reach a wider audience than ever. Thanks to a variety of platforms now available across the globe, Canadian prodcos are spoiled for choice when it comes to selling nonfiction libraries to new buyers and, in some cases, funding (or co-funding) new projects. 

For clarity on the terms and abbreviations used throughout the article, consult our report ‘Making Sense of the Media Distribution Multiverse: Paths to Consumers, Key Concepts and Definitions.’

Curio (London, United Kingdom)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Nordic countries;
  • Business model: SVoD only via telecom/cable carriage;
  • B2B model: Flat fee, non-exclusive.

Curio (not to be confused with the Canadian service) brings Nordic audiences curated nonfiction, factual, and doc programming that falls into four categories: civilization, nature and the environment, science and tech, and current affairs and social issues. As the first dedicated doc SVoD service in the area, its emphasis is on docs, reality and non-fiction, with an eye for foreign language content.

Curiosity Stream (Maryland, United States)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Global (including Canada);
  • Business model: SVoD, AVoD (15-second pre-rolls), funds originals, carriage on select platforms (telecom, cable) and OTT boxes in addition to direct-to-consumer;
  • B2B model: Flat fee, exclusive and non-exclusive.

The provider, which was founded by former Discovery Networks founder John Hendricks, has expanded from its original mission of providing documentary television that delved into science, technology, history, and wildlife. Now, in addition to offering high-quality docs, the service includes short-form video content, reality, and pseudo-scientific content. Curiosity is currently funding, co-producing and commissioning docs, reality, and non-fiction programming, with some interest in foreign language content (subtitled in English) that matches its high-end look.

DocuBay (Mumbai, India)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Global (180 countries);
  • Business model: SVoD;
  • B2B model: Flat fee with some revenue sharing, non-exclusive.

This global streaming service attempts to bring people from around the world together through a large selection of documentaries that fit under specific “bays” (SportsBay, ScienceBay, CrimeBay, etc). Its goal is to upload at least one daily film showcasing directors from across the world. While there is no funding content so far, the platform’s acquisitions span all genres of docs, reality, and non-fiction.

iWonder (Singapore)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and some South-East Asian countries
  • Business model: SVoD, DTC, carried by some Asian operators;
  • B2B model: Flat-fee, non-exclusive, sometimes revenue sharing. 

Current world news and curated documentaries is the name of the game for this platform, which was co-founded by former iflix Chief Content Officer James Bridges. The SVoD service includes roughly 1,000 titles across more than 50 genres, a number that encompasses features, series, and shorts. Typically iWonder does not offer funding, however its recent original ‘Coronavirus and Me’ could lead the service to expand into more such opportunities in the future.

Insight TV (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

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  • Countries served: Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, North America (Geoblocking as required);
  • Business model: Pay-TV, SVoD, AVoD, some carriage and other partnerships (Telus and Blue Ant Media in Canada), funding;
  • B2B model: Flat fee, funding, co-production.

This 4K, U-HD, HDR broadcaster with SVoD/AVoD variations deals with big budgets in order to create the specs for its docs, non-fiction, factual, and lifestyle/reality programming. The company invests money into fast-paced, non-fiction content that revolves around interesting characters and trending communities. It also looks for millennial-skewed content and appears open to more foreign language content (including French so long as it includes an English version). In the past Insight commissioned service work, generally retaining IP, but recently it has diverted into split-rights deals in working with more copros. 

Tënk (France)

> Visit the website

  • Countries served: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Canada;
  • Business model: SVoD;
  • B2B model: Revenue share.

This French platform recently entered Quebec, where it has been purchasing Quebecois and Canadian docs to complement its curated SVoD library of French and other EU region offerings. At time of press, Tënk is currently only available in French, however bilingual plans are in place and content should be available in both languages soon.

Amber Dowling
Amber Dowling is a Toronto-based freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines and websites across Canada and the United States. A previous president of the Television Critics Association and former editor-in-chief of TV Guide Canada, she’s covered all aspects of the platinum age of television and the emerging industry for publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, Playback, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Aside from watching too much boob tube she’s a world traveller and mom with a serious penchant for bold reds and stinky cheese.
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