Why The Founder of the Discovery Channel Wanted to Create the 'Netflix of Documentaries'

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Our digital landscape is littered with startup stories of success and failure on an almost daily basis. However, you will struggle to find a more engaging entrepreneurial tale than that of John S. Hendricks.

Back in the eighties, Hendricks observed a lack of documentaries on television. This was the moment that the seeds were sewn to build one of the most successful media entertainment companies in the world.

Armed with a curious mind and a $100,000-second mortgage on his home. Hendricks went from the brink of bankruptcy to the leader of a $23-billion media empire when he developed the Discovery Channel.

Discovery Communications housed 27 network brands including Animal Planet, TLC, and the Science Channel. These entertainment brands broadcast 100 channels to 1.5 billion people in 39 languages and more than 170 countries.

He's no stranger to second screening either. A combination of online and social media content in the run up to Nik Wallenda's rope walk over the Grand Canyon had generated 1.3 million tweets before it was even a thing.

Hendricks documented his inspirational journey in his book A Curious Discovery: An Entrepreneur's Story. Having stepped down as chairman of Discovery Communications back in 2014, this pioneer of cable TV programming had no plans to take his foot off the gas.

As viewers began to migrate away from traditional viewing to online services, Hendricks once again felt compelled to follow audience trends. In March 2015, he launched CuriosityStream, which has its sights set on becoming the Netflix of non-fiction. The on-demand and ad-free service will focus on delivering premium factual content. have once again energized his curious mind.

The technological advancement of 4K TVs is allowing the streaming service to exclusively showcase the visual wonders of the world to viewers looking for something a little more cerebral than binge watching Richie Rich or Hemlock Grove.

For example, the recent new series Deep Time History allows viewers to be taken on a deeper dive into the influence of physics, geology, and chemistry on humanity. From why Columbus went exploring to the Big Bang, the series looks at how science played a significant role in the way historical events were shaped.

The web interface for CuriosityStream allows consumers to access the service's streamed video from the usual internet-connected devices such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The more tech savvy who are already equipped with Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast are also catered for.

In a world full of reality shows, it's genuinely heartwarming to see an entrepreneur continue with his passion for creating documentaries. Ensuring high-quality factual programs have a home during the digital transition to streaming should also be commended.

After Netflix had paved the way to create the format he dreamed of, Hendricks said in a statement "I have long dreamed of a content-on-demand service that uses advanced media to empower the enduring human desire to understand the Universe and the world around us."

The biggest appeal for this pioneer is simply to enable viewers with the ability to access intelligent content on any device, anywhere at anytime.

The big question is whether there is an appetite for factual and informational content to make it a success. Will modern audiences who have a growing list of subscriptions to Amazon Prime, Netflix and HBO dig deep for nonfiction programs too? Hopefully, there is room in the market for those that also have a thirst for knowledge or just a curious mind like Hendricks.

Looking to the future, he also spoke of investigating opportunities with virtual reality. Immersing viewers in experiences such as a trip to the moon, hand gliding or a wealth of other exciting concepts.

On my podcast, I spoke with Discovery founder John Hendricks about his personal journey, the future of TV and CuriosityStream.