James Bridges: iWonder – New Streaming Platform

March 10, 2019
The launch of iWonder in Australia signals the emerging diversity of streaming platform offerings available to consumers.

Up until now, all of the talk when it comes to streaming platforms in Australia has been around market leader Netflix, with some noise coming from Stan and Foxtel Now. But currently, we also have Amazon Prime and Channel Ten soft launches, plus the likes of partly Screen Australia funded DocPlay and BeamaFilm, Revelation Film Festival’s RevOnDemand, YouTube, and of course ABC iView and SBS On Demand, among others.

Some of the offerings are AVOD (advertising VOD), most are SVOD (streaming VOD), whilst others are partly TVOD (transactional VOD), and some are even completely free, thank you ABC.

We are, however, on the cusp of more players coming into the market, with the much discussed and anticipated Disney, Warner Bros., and Apple services just around the corner.

Australians have embraced content streaming, and unlike our lacklustre internet speeds, this new way of consuming video content is not slowing down.

The burning question, though, is how many services will people subscribe to in the future?

“The data in America is clear,” says iWonder co-founder and CEO James Bridges. “The average American who has a video service subscribes to three services, that may be, Netflix, Hulu and sports. We think that proliferation, among millennials in the U.S. is even higher on average. They have never subscribed to traditional pay TV or cable TV. We think that the vast majority of our subscribers will have a Netflix or a Stan as well. But they’ll have something for their sports and something for their kids because those services are general services. There may be an interest in going deeper into these categories. We think factual is one of those categories they may want to go deeper.”

‘Bridges, now based in Singapore, has returned to Australia for the launch of iWonder. He was here from 2003-2014, working with Foxtel on Demand and then launching Foxtel’s Presto in 2014. Soon after, he went to Malaysia to work on the launch of iFlix, which currently has 15million subscribers across 32 countries, offering both AVOD and SVOD streaming (AVOD because of the lack of credit card proliferation in emerging markets). The boon for iFlix was licensing content from local producers and networks, and it is this content rather than the dominant Hollywood movies and TV shows, that has paved their way for success.

If you think vertically, then iWonder’s point of difference as a documentary/current affairs streamer makes sense, tapping into our interest in news that matters to us, and then aligning that with documentaries on similar topics.

“We’re not a news service, we are deeper context,” says Bridges. “We think the hypothesis that there’s a big overlap between people who are interested in what’s going on and people who are interested in documentaries about what’s going on in the world.”

Bridges is also well aware of the lack of awareness around documentary titles, hence pairing them with current affairs and displaying them properly on his service is key.

“The opportunity is there because there is great content out there that people generally don’t know about. Documentaries get famous over time through word-of-mouth.

“We make sure that we have all the great festival laurels, you’ve got to have great trailers and really good posters, to really give people the why to click.

“We’re using news and current affairs as a way in to discovering the catalogue. We have actually licensed a couple of different providers’ news feeds, ABC is one of them. As the news feed pops up with the story and the story might be, Harvey Weinstein Indicted, the documentaries that are adjacent to it might be Miss Representation about women in positions of power, or it might be a documentary on the history of Hollywood Moguls or a documentary on the Harvey Einstein scandal itself.

“We are about to put up a story about the Trump-Kim Vietnam Summit and we’ve got a documentary on the tech boom in Vietnam. We’ve got something else on the Assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother in Malaysia. Just these kinds of ‘I want to dig further’ and the reasons why to watch titles that are otherwise not household names but are still high quality.”

Launching 500+ hours of content, other titles on the service include Alt-Right: Age of Rage, Perth rock band doco Meal Tickets, a series about the iconic magazine Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge; Wayne, Jeremy Sims’ documentary about Australian motorbike champion Wayne Gardner, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me about the singer/songwriters battle with Alzheimer’s; Gimme DangerThe Queen of Ireland; Embrace; God Loves Uganda; Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words; Janis; Rocking Cambodia; Blue; King of Kong; Kurt and Courtney and much more.

“We want to test lots of different things,” says Bridges. “We are focusing on pure documentary. We’re agnostic about length – we have movies, TV shows, short form clips. We are passionate about connecting the best of the 30,000 or so documentaries produced each year, so many of which fly under the radar without Hollywood marketing budgets, to audiences that are increasingly migrating to streaming.”

iWonder is available now at $6.99/month (and new users receive one month free) on iOS and Android mobile and tablet via the app, on browsers at http://www.iwonder.com, and on bigger screens via Chromecast or Airplay.

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