James Bridges launches documentary streaming service iwonder

James Bridges.

Australian documentary makers have a new platform for their content with today’s launch of iwonder, an international streaming service.

Former Foxtel executive James Bridges has launched the VOD channel, which offers premium documentaries and current affairs, initially on iflix, which has more than 12 million users in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Bridges plans to offer iwonder as a direct-to-consumer SVOD proposition in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore in the third quarter or early fourth quarter this year, priced at the equivalent of $US4.99 per month.

“We are absolutely prioritising local content in Australia across both TV and film and are in discussions with multiple distributors,” Bridges, who was the founding chief content officer at iflix, tells IF from the Sunny Side of the Doc market in La Rochelle, France.

“We think true stories, well told, are compelling across the entire range of history, science, nature, biography, crime, social issues etc. So while we aim to have depth in every sub-genre of documentary, we don’t expect to be associated with just one. That said, current affairs will be core to our proposition.”

The programming includes biographies, investigative thrillers and documentaries from across the spectrum of history, sports, science and technology, religion, art and nature.

At launch in the iflix markets the line-up includes Biggie and Tupac, Deep Web, Hooligan Sparrow, Hoop Dreams, Janis, Jesus Camp, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Kurt and Courtney, Revenge of the Electric Car, The Farthest, The Internet’s Own Boy and You’ve Been Trumped.

The Singapore-based Bridges plans to ramp up the content to 500 hours on iflix’s  channel over the coming weeks. By the time of the Australasian and Singapore launches he intends to have more than 1,500 hours, with plans to more than double that in the second year. A phased global roll-out is on the agenda, starting with Western Europe and Canada in 2019.

He will soon announce partnerships with global news organisations for up-to-the-minute current affairs programming. In Australia the service will compete with Madman Entertainment’s VOD platform DocPlay.

The co-founders are his brother Mark Bridges, who previously worked at Spideo and other tech start-ups, and former iflix colleague Andreas von Maltzahn.

Bridges said: “Documentaries now represent more than half of all feature films made and, along with current-affairs programming, make up a quarter of viewership across film and TV. Despite a growing supply, these categories suffer from limited marketing so consumers never hear of some of the amazing documentaries made every year. iwonder’s mission is to personalise the discovery. Our partnership with iflix is the launch pad for this goal.”

Prior to iflix, Bridges was head of content, Foxtel on Demand and Presto. Earlier he worked for Star TV Hong Kong and ITV Digital UK.