Regardless of your feelings about the porn industry, you can’t deny it’s technological prowess. Long before the rest of the corporate world has figured out how best to adopt the latest tech trend, porn companies have dissected it and found a way to make money from it.
As companies at the industry's annual expo in Las Vegas promote the latest in wireless technology this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, porn companies are already well established in the space—and planning for the future.
Optimized Websites and streaming services for mobile devices have been in place for a while now. And more and more companies are starting to live stream interactive sessions with their stars to entice viewers to buy subscriptions on the go.
“The eventuality of DVDs going away is something that’s scaring lots of companies,” says Farley Cahen, chief operating officer of Digital Playground. “The goal is to produce good content that can be consumed on any platform, any way the consumer wants it.”
The iPhone is, of course, the dominant player in the field, but companies are hardly limiting themselves to Apple’s offerings. The push is on to ensure sites and streams are compatible with Google's Android platform – while companies are still taking a wait and see stance with Microsoft’sWindows Phone 7.
The porn industry, on the whole, has actually had plenty of time to prepare for the rise of mobile streaming in the U.S.
Around 2002-2003, European mobile customers were already able to do one-on-one video chats—and porn companies began studying how best to use the technology for when that potential came to fruition domestically.
In the interim, piracy has continued to chew into the bottom line of virtually all of the major porn studios. Bit Torrent sites opened the floodgates, but the rise of Youtube-like sites dedicated exclusively to porn really hurt studios.
Relative newcomers, such as Pink Visual, founded in 2004, have quickly made a name for themselves by focusing heavily on internet and wireless distribution, using DVDs as a secondary income stream. It was, in fact, the first porn company to launch mobile porn sites specifically designed for the iPhone.
In 2009, that company’s president, Alison Vivas, was selected to receive an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from a group backed by Newt Gingrich. (The award was rescinded when the group learned more about the company’s focus.)
That focus on digital content—and increasingly the wireless variety—is quickly becoming widespread. On average, most porn films sell just 2,000 to 3,000 copies on DVD these days, say industry insiders.
And some executives feel the industry’s traditional method of shooting a film, and then hoping it finds an audience, is one that’s quickly becoming doomed.
“Content producers need to realize that the notion of content as a one-way medium of delivery is antiquated and not sustainable,” says Cahen. “There’s going to be a leapfrog from simply delivering content to delivering live content. We are very focused on being able to deliver live streaming content to smart phone device users.”
To do that, Digital Playground is having regular live shows with its contract stars, including Jesse Jane, that start with the performers chatting (while clothed) with all users for roughly 15 minutes.
After that, the pay wall goes up, and subscribers can continue to interact with the star while they undress and perform more graphic acts. Cahen declined to give specific numbers, but said the shows have been quite successful.
Beyond staking a claim in a new technology, porn has good reason to embrace mobile devices. With streaming the primary delivery method (since the time it would take to download a movie could be considerable—a big no-no in porn, as audiences don’t wait), it strongly discourages piracy.
Finding ways to capture streamed content on a mobile device is something pirates haven’t bothered with yet, largely because the screen size and resolution suffer if watched on any other device.
And that, at last, gives adult entertainment companies, the upper hand they’ve been hunting for years.