Documentary+ Is the Latest Free Service to Enter the Streaming Wars

Documentary+ Is the Latest Free Service to Enter the Streaming Wars

Another free, ad-supported streaming service with a focus on non-fiction films launches today, this one hoping to win over the documentary crowd.

A joint project between Tony Hsieh (the former Zappos CEO who recently passed away) and studio XTR, Documentary+ launched with a catalogue of films by several high-profile directors and filmmakers, among them Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, Kathryn Bigelow, and Spike Jonze, to name just a few. At launch, the service has a pretty broad selection of categories to choose from, including politics, sports, comedy, music, and true crime, among other genres, with a focus specifically on premium content. The service has more than 150 titles available at launch.

A spokesperson for Discovery+ told Gizmodo all of the films are licensed, and the library will change over time as some titles leave and others arrive. The aim is for the service “to always remain feeling highly curated and personal, like the [Criterion Channel] for documentaries.” Sundance Film Festival officially begins this week, and the company will be looking for potential acquisitions opportunities there as well.

The service is available on desktop, mobile devices, Apple TV and Amazon. The company told Gizmodo it doesn’t currently have any plans for an ad-free version of the service as it works to grow its subscriber base. However, if demand is high enough, the service could be open to exploring an ad-free tier as well.

It may be free, but Documentary+ has a pretty large existing pool of competitors whose content libraries also include documentaries. Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon all produce their own, for example, and services like Kanopy and CuriosityStream both have solid documentary catalogues as well. Most of those require monthly subscription fees, though (Kanopy being an exception). And offering its service for free — particularly right now, as so many others are launching — could help Documentary+ be a nice complement to other paid services.

“There has never been a more exciting time for nonfiction — we’re seeing visionary new directors emerge and streaming has given documentary films wide new global audiences,” Bryn Mooser, co-founder of Documentary+ and CEO of XTR, said in a statement. “With Documentary+, not only are we building a home for some of the best documentary films of our time, but we’re giving filmmakers another option for distribution as competition continues to increase. The COVID pandemic created this great digital acceleration and we are building Documentary+ to be a key cornerstone in the future of the industry.”

Another day, another dang streaming service.

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