CuriosityStream and Nebula streaming services

I know this post is a little outside the typical theme, but I wanted to write about CuriosityStream and Nebula since I was unable to find many reviews of the services.

I like “edutainment” content in moderation when I’m not able to dedicate attention to reading the corresponding Wikipedia article(s). On YouTube, these are channels like Mustard, Paper Skies, and Wendover.

Some of these creators pitch Nebula as an alternative streaming service with exclusive content not available on YouTube. Since the annual subscription is quite cheap, I thought I would take a subscription and see what it has to offer.

Unfortunately for the channels I am interested in, there are little to no exclusive videos present on Nebula:

Paper Skies: YouTube and Nebula videos
Mustard: YouTube and Nebula videos

Mustard’s channel has only 3 videos on Nebula that have not been posted to YouTube. Some of the “Nebula Original” videos have since been posted to YouTube (and since they’re historical topics, the fact that they’re reposted to YouTube later is of little consequence).

Wendover: YouTube and Nebula videos

Wendover’s Nebula channel has a small number of Nebula exclusive videos. Of the 100 Wendover videos available on Nebula, 12 are not present on YouTube.

But the point of writing a blog post is not only to comment on the lack of original content available on Nebula. Let us talk about Nebula’s content security. There is none.

As far as I can tell, the only thing preventing you from downloading any Nebula exclusive video is guessing the video title:${CHANNEL}-${VIDEO_TITLE}/manifest/c7ef54597481957ca15459cf648a81e58734d0f3cb296f2197bb69a4db085374.m3u8

To obtain the video title, just replace whitespace and punctuation with the hyphen character. For the Mustard channel video “This Plane Tried To Do The Impossible: The Caproni Transaero” you would end up with the video title “this-plane-tried-to-do-the-impossible-the-caproni-transaero”

There are some videos which don’t conform to this scheme exactly, such as the Nebula exclusive movie “Alaska’s Silent Summer” by Wendover. In this case, the manifest URL simply uses the first word of the video title.

If anyone wanted to determine the manifest URL for the Nebula exclusive Mustard video “The Ugliest Plane Ever Built” it wouldn’t require more than a few guesses, given the above information.

The manifest is served by a CDN, and works without authentication so it’s trivial to guess the manifest URL to use with youtube-dl. Enjoy 👍

CuriosityStream is a slightly different matter. The content I looked at appeared to be content produced for television which was relicensed for distribution by CuriosityStream. An example of this would be the ARTE series Happiness is on the Plate, or the BBC series Mumbai Railway which I could not find available on any open content distribution platform (like YouTube).

If you enjoy television productions which have a limited distribution, then a subscription to CuriosityStream might be for you.

CuriosityStream at least varies the hash of their content manifest files, so you cannot simply guess the URL to obtain the content. However, CuriosityStream are not using any form of DRM, so with an account you can obtain an offline copy of the content using youtube-dl.

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