New docs and current affairs platform iwonder seeks local content

SVOD service iwonder has launched in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, initially offering more than 500 hours of documentaries and current affairs programming for $6.99 per month or $69.95 a year.

Co-founder James Bridges tells IF he plans to double the volume of content by the end of this month, including local acquisitions; he estimates more than 70 per cent of the programming is not available on any other platform.

He is attending the Australian International Documentary Conference in Melbourne where he will initiate discussions with Australian producers on commissions and co-productions.

The direct-to-consumer platform’s documentaries span the spectrum of entertainment, sports, history, politics, science and technology, religion, music, movies, nature, war and biographies.

The exclusives include Meal Tickets, Mat de Koning’s film about a Perth rock band whose ambitions were never realised, which premiered at MIFF in 2016; Israel Cannan’s Fish Out of Water, which traces the journey of two ordinary men attempting to the North Atlantic Ocean in a wooden rowboat; and Alt-Right: Age of Rage, Adam Bhala Lough’s doc which explores the new white supremacists in the US and those who’ve devoted their lives to fighting them.

The Aussie acquisitions include Jeremy Sims’ Wayne and James Bogle’s Whiteley from Transmission Films and Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader from ABC Commercial.

The service is available on iOS and Android mobiles and tablets via the app and on big screens via Chromecast and Airplay.

The plan is to achieve wide distribution, presumably via platforms such as Foxtel and Fetch; Bridges expects to announce carriage deals within 60-90 days. Feature docs comprise roughly 30 per cent of the content with the rest consisting of TV series and current affairs.

James Bridges.

Bridges was Foxtel’s head of content for On Demand and Presto for 11 years until 2014 when he moved to Asia as iflix’s founding chief content officer. The co-founders are his brother Mark Bridges, who previously worked at Spideo and other tech start-ups, and former iflix chief business development officer Andreas von Maltzahn.

Last July iwonder launched on iflix’s platform in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East as a branded channel and a small section of its programming has been available on TVNZ’s catch-up platform TVNZ OnDemand since December.

The founders are convinced they have a unique proposition: News stories are integrated into the home page and paired with documentaries and current affairs shows that explore similar themes and related topics.

For example – a news story on President Trump’s aborted meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Vietnam would be linked to a doc on Trump’s Russian ties, another on the murder of Kim’s half-brother in Malaysia, and a third on Vietnam’s burgeoning tech sector.

James Bridges says: “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.”

Eventually the founders plan to raise additional funds to expand the platform to Western Europe and Canada.