That didn't stop Hustler Video Group, which produces 20 porn titles a month, from deciding four weeks ago that it was going to manufacture on high-def discs, starting this month. The company had been shooting in high-def for a year, so it was also in a position to reproduce 12 months of backlog titles on high-definition discs and redistribute them.
The problem with all those plans was that Hustler had committed itself to HD DVD. Then the Warner Bros. news came out.
"Now we've sort of put the brakes on a decision," says Hustler Creative Director Drew Rosenfeld, who heads up production for Hustler.
Hustler expected Wal-Mart and other discount retailers to slash prices on HD DVD players over the holidays, which is in fact what happened. Also adding to HD DVD's appeal was that replicating companies charge only about half the amount per disc to reproduce that format than they do for Blu-ray, Rosenfeld says.
Key Role of Replicators
Now Hustler has to consider switching to Blu-ray, but few replication houses are geared up to work with the format yet, Rosenfeld says. Making things more difficult, porn producers have to find companies that are friendly to the industry. He says many won't work with pornography companies.
Hustler could always turn to an Asian Blu-ray replicator, most of which charge less than their US counterparts, Rosenfeld says. But to do so could mean putting movie master copies straight into the hands of pirates who would illegally copy and distribute the movies themselves.
Rosenfeld says—tentatively—that he sees Blu-ray winning out over HD DVD in the end, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good business move to abandon the HD DVD format just yet.
"HD DVD is still a viable product, because there are a million players out there,” says Rosenfeld. “Why would all those people throw those new machines away?"
Jeff Snyder of KBeech Content, which produces about 16 movies a month, says market saturation has made it hard to make money with standard-definition discs, much less high-def. Basically anybody can make a movie and distribute it online with very little up-front money.
"It's hard to know where the market will go," Snyder says. "The question now is: Do you want to go HD at all? It's hard to get your money back these days. It's hard to move 1,000 (discs). It's not like it used to be. We used to move 5,000 pieces no problem."
Most adult filmmakers aren't abandoning hard copies just yet, though. Some online distributors are even expanding toward discs.
Eyeing The Internet
Boys Night Out Entertainment, a production company from Ft. Myers, Fla., has distributed through the Internet exclusively, but is now moving into hard-copy distribution. A producer for the company acknowledged that discs yield lower margins than online content but said the company sees potential in the market.