YouTube-style porn threatens studios

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AFTER years of booming sales supported by videotapes, DVDs and the internet, the adult film industry is being challenged by easy video-sharing websites offering explicit content for free.

“We’re dealing with rampant piracy, tons of free content,” said Steven Hirsch, co-founder of Vivid, the best-known adult film studio.

Vivid once earned 80 per cent of its roughly $100 million a year from DVD sales, but last year that fell to 30 per cent, Mr Hirsch said.

The challenge of the internet, a topic of discussion at the biggest adult film expo of the year in Las Vegas last week, has already presented itself to the music and mainstream film industries.

Much of the online competition for the US porn world, based largely in southern California, comes from websites like XTube.com which allow users to upload their own videos in a similar format to YouTube.

Some of the videos on XTube, based in Toronto, Canada, come from commercial studios while others are posted by amateurs.

“We’re not pirates. We are providing a service that people think they can use to pirate,” said Lance Cassidy, one of XTube’s founders.

The website has 200,000 free videos, typically 30 seconds to two minutes long, and about 1 per cent of visitors buy DVDs or video streams, resulting in millions of dollars of annual revenue, sales director Curtis Potec said. About two thirds of XTube’s viewers are gay, Mr Potec said.

“We’ve had tons and tons of people tell us this is the future of the adult industry,” Mr Potec said.

“Most of the money is ads, on any site, mainstream or adult.”

Scott Coffman, president of Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN) in North Carolina, says his company started a YouTube-type site a year-and-a-half ago to generate revenue through advertising and drive traffic to pay-per-minute sites.

AEBN limits free clips to three minutes. Users make about a quarter of them.

“They don’t convert that well when you give away so much. There is a fine line between giving away something small, a teaser… and giving away the whole thing,” Mr Coffman said.

He said his company had revenue of about $100 million a year and was facing a lawsuit from Vivid accusing AEBN of piracy.

Mr Hirsch of Vivid said he would also sue other video-sharing sites.

“This industry is going to have to get together and look at these guys that are putting out the stuff for free… so they are going to have to get in line and start paying for it,” Mr Hirsch said.

“If that doesn’t happen and we see all of this free content out there, people are not going to be able to afford to produce movies anymore.”

Videotapes, fewer prosecutions, DVDs and internet advertising has created an unprecedented boom the US adult film industry since the 1980s.

Many studios post short clips on internet video-sharing sites as advertising to sell more movies.

“This is something we constantly discuss in our office. Is it too much,” said Garion Hall, chief executive of Abbywinters.com, an Australian-based company.

Hall said only one out of 500 viewers clicked over to his site from free clips and of those only one in 50 subscribed.

Some adult industry executives say a solution may lie in future distribution deals with big US companies such as AT&T, Verizon Communications, Comcast and Apple.

An Apple spokeswoman said the company would not comment if it had held past talks or was interested in distributing adult product.

A spokeswoman for Comcast, the largest US cable provider, said the firm offered adult content in its video-on-demand service but said she knew of no talks for mobile adult distribution.

Sales of sex films to mobile devices occur in Europe but have yet to take off in the US.

“We won’t make money through adult content,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Ken Muche.

AT&T did not comment.

Jay Grdina, president of ClubJenna Inc, a division of Playboy, said sharing previews was a mistake.

“We’re getting bitten by our own sword,” he said.

Grdina, former husband and on-scene partner of Jenna Jameson, one of the industry’s most famous porn stars, said he has met companies such as Microsoft and Apple to seek wireless and other distribution deals that could allow easy downloads to devices such as iPods.

A spokesman for Microsoft said they were not in talks to distribute adult content.

“The revenues are massive,” Grdina said.

“(But) the biggest fear is share price: what are the shareholders going to say?”

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3 thoughts on “YouTube-style porn threatens studios

  1. Hi,
    I have compiled a list of more than 600 YouTube-like sites with their niches, and the list is still growing.
    If you’re interested in the porn niche, check for instance http://www.ilikesharingvideos.com/video-sharing-sites/en/niche/pornography/
    And if you’re more broadly interested in video sharing, be it how to make you own YouTube clone or how to get money from your videos, you should give it an eye to that resource site. There’s even a forum!
    Cheers

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