iwonder is a documentary-focused service that will charge $6.99 per month or $69.99 for an annual subscription. In addition to Australia, it will also launch in New Zealand and Singapore this week.
It will have over 1000 titles on its platforms by the end of the month — some of the titles include classics such as Hoop Dreams, Super Size Me, Not Quite Hollywood, Kurt & Courtney and Jesus Camp.
What iwonder hopes will set it apart from its competitors is a current affairs curation service. The app’s homepage will have articles of news events and serve up relevant or related recommendations.
For example, if the extradition of a Huawei executive is making headlines, iwonder might recommend documentaries about the Chinese protest movement or a film about Silicon Valley and tech companies.
It launches on iOS and Android devices with capacity for Chromecast and Airplay. Dedicated Apple TV or set-top box apps are in train.
It’s elbowing its way into a growing market that Statista values at $167 million and Telsyte figures for the year ending June 2018 puts at more than nine million subscribers.
iwonder’s entry into the market underscores the growing trend for streaming services to be separated into “verticals” rather than as all-encompassing one-stop shops consumers may want them to be.
When Netflix launched in Australia four years ago, audiences enthusiastically took up its $10-a-month offer for a wide variety of content.
It created a “paying for content” behaviour that’s less ingrained in Australia where pay TV take-up has only ever hovered at 30 per cent compared with the US market where pay TV penetration rose to the high 80s.
But now years down the track and consumers are being told that in order to have access to all the content they want, they will have to pay for more than one service.
In Australia, direct-to-consumer pay-to-watch streaming services include Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video, Foxtel Now, DocPlay, Hayu, YouTube Premium, Kayo and 10 All Access.
Then there are streaming channels you can subscribe to through a telco — for example, National Geographic and the English Premier League through Optus.
Of streaming platforms, DocPlay, Hayu and Kayo focus on specific content — documentaries, reality TV and sports.
And there are more on the way. Apple’s TV product is imminent with a press showcase already scheduled for US media at the end of this month, while Disney Plus is expected to launch soon.
James Bridges, chief executive of iwonder, told news.com.au he expected streaming or over-the-top (OTT) services would increasingly fragment categories such as sports, kids and factual.
“I think OTT is a really good delivery method for this,” Mr Bridges said. “I think there is room in the market, just as Kayo has proven that there is for sports. There’s also room for a good kids’ channel.
“I think just as pay TV had these subgenres and verticals, that will begin to happen in OTT.”
Mr Bridges said he expected iwonder subscribers would already have a Netflix or Stan account, possibly both.
“The evidence in the US is the average streaming subscriptions per person is three to six services,” he said.
“More than 30 per cent of Millennials in developed markets have three-plus subscriptions. Traditional pay TV, at the top end, is more than $100 a month.”
Mr Bridges previously worked at Foxtel, on the on-demand product and Presto, before moving to Singapore to work with iFlix.
In launching iwonder, which already exists as a branded channel in other markets including New Zealand, he said he was excited about showcasing documentaries, the vast majority of which had little marketing budget to get in front of audiences.
“The audience we’re targeting are time poor and wants to know there are quality titles they can go to,” he said.
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