7 Reasons CuriosityStream is Worth It (& 4 Reasons It’s Not)

“Is CuriosityStream worth it?”

You’ve probably seen the ads and the many sponsored YouTube videos about this streaming service for documentaries and are now wondering whether or not you should give the service a try.

CuriosityStream was founded by John Hendricks, the same person who also created the old, good Discovery Channel before it was overrun by reality TV and pseudoscience. As such, a good way to think about CuriosityStream is to see it like the old Discovery Channel / History, except that you can stream documentaries like on Netflix.

The overall quality of the documentaries is mostly solid. The cost is very attractive, especially after they reduced their prices by half in mid 2018.

It also offers lots of nifty and useful features, such as a passworded child-friendly mode, streaming on multiple devices from the same account etc.

That being said, CuriosityStream does have some negative points. Content growth can be rather slow. The 4K monthly subscription is a bit hard to justify since there aren’t very many 4K documentaries available.

It also comes with no content suggestion algorithm so you pretty much have to sift through the documentaries “by hand”.

7 Reasons CuriosityStream is Worth It

CuriosityStream is a legit, factual documentary streaming service

CuriosityStream is the real deal if you’re looking for a documentary only streaming service. As of 2018, it had over 2000 documentaries. Since then, its library has only increased through licensing deals and their own original documentaries.

The documentaries themselves are “serious” in nature and tackle complex scientific, historical or cultural topics such as:

Even the lowest rated documentaries are serious in nature. In their case, the rating isn’t dragged down by the topic, but mostly because of poor production values, unclear explanations, presenters that aren’t charismatic or even lack of a sense of humor.

User opinion:

CS is basically a VOD version of what Discovery and History used to be before all the reality TV crap they put on those cable channels these days. Which makes sense since CS was created by the founder of Discovery Networks who left the company several years ago.

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CuriosityStream has a cheap price

One of the biggest selling points of CuriosityStream is its affordable price:

  • Monthly HD subscription: $3.
  • Yearly HD subscription: $20, meaning $1.67 per month.
  • Monthly 4K subscription: $10.
  • Yearly 4K subscription: $70, meaning a monthly price of $5.8 per month. 

All of the above subscriptions give you access to the entire CuriosityStream content library. The only thing you cannot see on an HD subscription are the 4K versions of certain documentaries (you can still view them in the HD version).

Another thing to keep in mind is that all of the shows in the HD subscription model actually have a Full HD (1080p) resolution.

If you were to go by the name, you’d think the highest resolution would be 720p, but that’s not the case: every documentary on CuriosityStream has a 1080p version.

The last thing that should be mentioned is that if you subscribe to CuriosityStream for 1 month and then immediately cancel, you can still use the service for the entire 30 day period. The subscription ends only after 30 days have passed since payment.

CuriosityStream has shows on a wide selection of topics and various lengths

CuriosityStream divides its shows and documentaries into 7 major topics: Science, History, Nature, Kids, Technology, Lifestyle and Society.

Each of these major topics has 7-8 subtopics. Overall, CuriosityStream documentaries cover a total of 56 subtopics.

Unfortunately, non-subscribed visitors can only see the major topics, and not the subtopics. To help you come to a decision, you can see the complete list of major topics and subtopics in the list below.

  • SCIENCE: Physics | Space | Mind | Biology | Genetics | Medicine | Evolution | Geology | Psychology
  • HISTORY: Prehistory | Ancient | Medieval | Modern | Aviation | Biographies | Megastructures | Military
  • TECHNOLOGY: Energy | Engineering | Transportation | Communications | Nanotechnology | Artificial Intelligence | Privacy & Security | Social Web
  • NATURE: Earth | Animals | Birds | Insects | Natural Habitats | Prehistoric Creatures | Oceans | Plants
  • SOCIETY: Entrepreneurship | Social Issues | Politics | Crime & Forensics | Economics | Business & Commerce | Democracy | Current Events
  • LIFESTYLE: Food | Collecting | Performance Arts | Creativity | Home Projects | Philosophy | Health & Wellness | Travel
  • KIDS: STEAM | History | Space Exploration | Nature | Dinosaurs | Current Events

Another great aspect of CuriosityStream is the wide variety in documentary length. Depending on your mood, you can dive into a 7 hour series with 1 hour long episodes, or a quick bite-sized 1 minute per episode series.

Those are the extremes of course. Generally, the most common length formats are the following:

  • 2-4 hour series, with 1 hour episodes.
  • 1-2 hour series, with 10-25 minute episodes.
  • Single episode, 60-90 minute long documentaries.
  • 8-15 minutes single episode shorts.

Exclusive CuriosityStream content

Another good reason to subscribe to CuriosityStream is its own, exclusive documentaries that aren’t available anywhere else. These are a mix of exclusive licensing and CuriosityStream’s own, in-house productions.

Their entire exclusive collection has 127 hours of total content, is rated 90% or higher and has a very high proportion of 4K documentaries.

If you’d like to see for yourself what you’d be getting, you can browse the entire collection here.

Stream on any device with multiple users

A cool thing about CuriosityStream is that it allows you to stream on multiple devices.

Unfortunately, CuriosityStream isn’t transparent on the maximum amount of allowed devices, but this user tried out their subscription on 4 different devices (desktop PC, 2 smartphones, 1 tablet) and encountered no issues in terms of latency and bandwidth limit.

Chances are very high that these limits do exist, but there is no hard figure available on the Internet for the maximum number of allowed devices.

Another major plus is that CuriosityStream is available on all the major platforms: Android, iOS, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast,

Password enabled child-friendly filter

CuriosityStream is very child friendly for the most part. However, families with kids can choose to activate an extra, kid-friendly filter that is password protected which blocks out any sensitive content.

The only problem with the kid friendly feature is that you have zero control over it except activating / deactivating it.

As a parent, CuriosityStream doesn’t give you the option to block certain documentaries, meaning you pretty much just have to take their word that the documentaries they allow are indeed child friendly.

Offline viewing

Don’t have Internet connection but still want to watch a documentary? CuriosityStream offers you the option to save a documentary onto your mobile device (only when connected to Wi-Fi) and then watch it offline. Perfect for when you’re on a flight or in an area with poor internet connection.

4 Reasons CuriosityStream is NOT Worth It

Slow content growth

One disadvantage of CuriosityStream is that their content library grows very slowly. Usually, they’ll add at most 10-15 new documentaries per month.

If you’re the kind of person that wants to see the latest and greatest documentaries, you’ll likely be a bit turned off by CuriosityStream since it may take years for certain documentaries to appear on the platform.

As an example, Apocalypse Stalin was added to the CuriosityStream library in July/August 2020, even thought it was first released back in 2015.

Another issue with the slow content growth is that after the first 6-12 months of watching the most interesting shows, you’ll likely reach a point where you just browse the same docs over and over again trying to find something new you’ve overlooked.

User Review

I have a year long subscription. Forgot I wasn’t monthly, but figured it out when I went to cancel. That should tell you something.

The content growth is absurdly slow and the areas of content are pretty narrow. I’ll probably just subscribe for a few months in the future, cancel, and renew a year later.

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I am, I did the year subscription, it was super cheap so figured why not since I enjoy watching educational stuff when I go to sleep. There is definitely some really good stuff on there but they don’t add new content very frequently. One exception to this is that they frequently add these 5-8 min videos which personally is what I am looking for.

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There aren’t that many 4K documentaries

As mentioned before, CuriosityStream does have a 4K subscription, which unlocks the 4K version of some documentaries.

A $10 per month ($5.8 for the annual subscription) would be a reasonable price to pay if all or most of the documentaries had a 4K option. Unfortunately however, at most 5-10% of the available shows have a 4K resolution.

It’s very possible to buy a year-long 4K subscription, only to finish most of the interesting 4K documentaries in 2-3 months (even less if you’re a binge watcher). After that, you’re essentially left with an overpriced HD subscription because there’s nothing left to watch in 4K.

It’s true that CuriosityStream continually adds new content, but the pace is painfully slow and may not keep up with your viewing habits.

That being said, the 4K documentaries themselves are jaw-dropping in terms of visuals. They also tend to be better made in terms of narration, quality of explanations and general production quality.

Here are just a few of the really good 4K documentaries on CuriosityStream:

Lack of a suggestion algorithm

In case you’re a frequent user of Netflix and YouTube, you may have gotten used to their suggestion algorithms that promotes content similar to what you’ve previously watched.

If this is the case and you generally like these suggestion algorithms, then CuriosityStream will likely disappoint you since it doesn’t have one.

The only way to figure out what you want to see is by manually looking through the CuriosityStream library every time you want to see something new.

Fortunately, the service does come with an “Add to Watchlist” feature where you can save certain documentaries for later viewing. This is hugely helpful so you don’t have to sift through hundreds or thousands of documentaries just to find the right thing to watch at a certain time.

The ratings on documentaries seem unusually high

One thing that stands out if you look at CuriosityStream’s ratings for individual documentaries is how surprisingly high most shows are rated.

In its categories list, CuriosityStream orders its documentaries from the highest-to-lowest ratings. The interesting thing is that even the lowest rated documentaries (such as WIN!, a documentary about starting a soccer team) have a 75% or more rating.

Why does CuriosityStream have such high ratings for its shows? It could be multiple reasons:

  • They remove documentaries with poor ratings from their library.
  • There’s a strong content review and filtering mechanism that prevents bad documentaries from ending up on CS.
  • Similar to how YouTube users tend to “like” most videos, CS viewers might also overwhelmingly tend to thumbs up rather than thumbs down a documentary.
  • In the worst case scenario (and most unlikely one), CS is fudging the ratings to make their content seem more attractive than it really is.

Are CuriosityStream’s ratings representative of the quality of a documentary? It’s hard to say. It is however something to take into account and watch out for if you do decide to test out CuriosityStream.

CuriosityStream final review and verdict

CuriosityStream has its strengths and weaknesses. Overall however, its rich initial content library and very accessible price outweigh most of its weaknesses and make it an easy to recommend purchase.

If you’re more skeptical of the service, then it’s easy to just subscribe for 1 month, see how it goes and then cancel.

If you’re already comfortable with CuriosityStream’s limitations but also the positive value it can offer you, the year-long, $20 HD subscription gives you that great $1.67 per month price.

The 4K subscriptions are harder to justify. However, if you’re big on 4K and don’t mind the expense it can be a good purchase and gives you access to their limited, but very good looking 4K library.

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