Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
The streaming landscape is changing fast. We're entering a new era of streaming start-ups, with an increasing number of services focusing on single-genre catalogs. Some of these, like NBC Universal's comedy streaming app Seeso, are backed by major companies. Others are stand-along enterprises trying to break into a market that's dominated by major players.
One such newcomer is CuriosityStream, the documentary-only streaming service started by the same businessman that founded the Discovery Channel. Is CuriosityStream destined for greatness? Here's our full review.
CuriosityStream does a good job of managing its content. Documentaries are sorted into four categories – Science, Technology, Civilization, and “Human Spirit” -, and those four categories are each split into eight further sub-categories. This simple system makes it fairly easy to find documentaries on a given subject, and the search feature (“I'm curious about…” the search bar reads) is reasonably well executed, too.
The app home pages all feature sorted rows of titles, though only a couple of rows (“Trending” and “Recently Added”) are new – the rest are just the same four genres as can be reached through the genre pull-down menu. On the mobile apps, the “Explore” tab offers a little more in terms of content discovery, allowing users to drill down by types of content (“Performances,” “Lectures,” etc.) and the “experts” behind the films (documentary filmmakers, etc.).
You can also create a watchlist (called “bookmarks” in the app), scroll through recently watched content, and finish any unfinished videos. These functions are all on a separate tab marked “Later.” I found this a convenient way to organize these functions.
Overall, the service is very pleasant to use across all platforms.
As mentioned above, CuriosityStream focuses entirely on documentary content. That includes feature-length documentaries, documentary series, lectures, short clips, and more, all of which stream ad-free. CuriosityStream is serious about its documentary focus: it doesn't include reality programming or speculative paranormal programming in its lineup, though it does offer lectures and performances.
A fair amount of CuriosityStream's offerings are originals. CuriosityStream owns a production company called Curiosity Studios that has created a lot of content for the service, including a series called Curious Minds.
CuriosityStream also offers content from other producers, including BBC. There isn't much in the way of big-name documentaries (don't expect to find Planet Earth or Cosmos on CuriosityStream), but the quality of the documentaries is decent.
CuriosityStream's content is solid, but in some ways it doesn't measure up to the documentary selection that subscribers get on multi-genre streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu. CuriosityStream offers a larger number of documentaries and cuts out the pseudoscience and paranormal stuff, but it doesn't have the big-budget documentary projects. Instead, you can mostly expect documentaries of the quality that you might see airing on PBS in the middle of the day.
The HD package was used for this review (there are also standard definition and 4K Ultra HD packages). Streaming was a strong point for CuriosityStream, which streamed smoothly and in high definition on all of the devices we tried. Initial loading times were minimal, while choppiness and freezing were essentially non-existent on all of the platforms we tried.
CuriosityStream is available through an in-browser web app as well as on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Kindle, Android TV, and Chromecast (casting from browser or Android only). The lack of Chromecast support for iOS is a bit odd, given how comprehensive the rest of their platform support is.
CuriosityStream is also available as an add-on subscription within Amazon Prime. If you go this route, CuriosityStream content will be integrated into the Amazon Video experience.
The apps were very similar across all platforms, as was streaming quality. In both departments, CuriosityStream was quite strong on all devices.
CuriosityStream offers three pricing tiers – one each for standard definition, HD, and 4K Ultra HD. They'll set you back $2.99, $5.99, and $11.99 per month, respectively. Most users will probably want the $5.99 HD package, which seems fairly priced – it costs about the same as other genre-specific services, like Seeso, and significantly less than all-in-one services like Netflix.
CuriosityStream has a promising business model. The idea of a genre-specific streaming service makes a lot of sense and appeals to the cord cutter instinct of preferring a la carte services rather than all-in-one bundles (which remind some of us too much of cable). And CuriosityStream has done a lot of things right, including its pricing, platform support, and content discovery features.
But CuriosityStream's biggest problem is in the most important department: content. While CuriosityStream has some respectable original programming, its documentary content doesn't measure up to what's already available on mainstream streaming services like Netflix. That makes the whole CuriosityStream experiment seem a bit superfluous.
Good, informative article.
The content on Curiosity Stream is the same you can pick up for free on You Tube or the other services like Hulu. They only give you 7 days for free and then you are on the hook. Not worth the money.
Thanks so much — was getting ready to go to Curiosity Stream, but your comment sparked me into going to YouTube for FREE during this pandemic! I’m simply thrilled.
Finally a good explanation. Thanks!
Answered my questions. Thanks
Looks promising. I want it.
Well written and very informative. Thank you.
I just started a trial for CS Standard, with HD. Is there a significant visual difference in quality between Basic and Standard?
My ATT service doesn’t get HD anyway so I didn’t waste the extra $.
I also disagree with what they say above. For pure scientific content, not entertainment, there is NOTHING like Curiosity Stream. If you just want the PBS type stuff, yes you can get some of that on Prime however they do the “Teaser Trick” you get one season free or part of a season free then the rest costs per show. Netflix is very limited.
i think there’s a very limited range of videos. I log in and i look at the selection and always just log out. maybe I’ve just seen most of these videos elsewhere. but i regret buying a 1 year subscription and me being low on cash it hurts double.
I should add that I have a 42″ Sony Bravia that is 3 years old.
One other point worth understanding… the annual renewal takes effect at the minute you sign up +1 year. I signed up at 12:48 PM on July 15th and then cancelled at 2 PM on July 15th the following year. No refund is available for the next year (year 2) despite my obvious intention – only the date is mentioned in their policy but CS is clearly very limited in authority, and just quotes the policy but insists the intent is the timestamp. Additionally my card was charged prior to the 1 year mark so I am not sure they would actually honor that practice – I would avoid this company based on this payment practice.
After future discussion the refund was granted… clearly not ideal but reasonableness did win out…
I decided that with a 40″ Sony Bravia, HD would be a waste of money, and downgraded to basic service @ $29.99/year. I can’t honestly say I notice any difference in quality.
Agree no notable difference. Not CS more likely your service, as it is mine.
I am avoiding CuriosityStream (CS) like the proverbial plague. This is based on:
1) No refund for subscription cancellations. There are too many streaming services that do return fees for unused portions of a subscription, to make CS’s inability to offer such anything more than excessive greed.
2) There is NO information on the CS web page about what they offer, or what is the difference between their 3 tiers of service, or what content they actually offer. (Yes I found some of it here but would not an up-and-up company make this info available on their own site?).
3) Learning from third party web pages that their streaming content is not as robust as they make it out to be.
4) Having to sign away my rights, that would protect me from fraud and malfeasance.
5) Arbitration to be conducted in Maryland (I’m in California).
6) Most amusingly, as part of their current promo ad blitz, CS states that “There is no penalty for cancelling your subscription.” Buried elsewhere in the Promo Blitz is their statement of no refunds. AKA, you quit, we don’t have to pay royalties for what you watch, AND we will keep your payment.
So, CS, I give your company 2 fingers up.
I love curiosity stream. But this article not so much. There is so much content on CS that I was hoping to narrow it down such as when I search, “best on Netflix this month”. This article does not answer that question and in fact, begets the question: did the author even bother to watch anything more than five minutes?
You should always start monthly on a new service anyway.
A years subscription cost $59.99. They do not notify you of when your subscription is about to expire, they just hit your bank account for another $59.99. Warning: Do not subscribe to this channel. They are bare ripoff artists!
I subscribed for $19.99 per YEAR. Highly recommend.
Me too and I watch it more than any other streaming or TV channel.
Not much content. A lot of the contest is subjective assumptions of facts. Only watch because I get it for free with my cable. Definitely not worth any type of charge for this service. Many programs are over five years old and new information is available. Some programs are only minutes long. I would never pay for a subscription.
wired to router Roku ultra 2019 with speed of 250 mbps and Vizio M3-C60 4K TV CS freezes after 5 seconds while audio keeps playing. I have uninstalled, reinstalled the channel, factory reset the Roku, rebooted router Customer service doesn’t offer a phone number. Chat only says they need to escalate and no reply from email. really bad…
This is a total scam ! I thought I was signing up for a 7 day free trial, and the next thing
I knew they charged my card that very day. I tried to cancel but they lock you in and won’t
refund a dime. I repeatedly tried to cancel or contact support, and all of a sudden I’m
locked out of my account . I tried to reset my password but could not ………got an error
message that said my email account didn’t exist ! Are you kidding me. Avoid this site
like the plague.
Looks like a lot of sci-fi & Junk science to me!
It’s so sad, a science/documentary focused channel is exactly what I would be interested in if I were going to sign up for a streaming service, but not having a public list of their content is a huge red flag for me. Tbh I wouldn’t care if a lot of it was old – I was happily watching gorgeous nature docus all the way back in the nineties – but I like to know what I’m buying before I fork over money.
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