Cable Operators

Adult Is Wild For The Web

3/09/2009 9:16 AM Eastern

The migration of video content from the traditional TV screen to multiple platforms, in particular the Web, is perhaps most apparent in the area of adult entertainment. That has even some cable operators seeing the Internet as an opportunity for marketing and additional revenue.

“There was a reluctance on their part in the past to get involved because they felt the Internet was just competition, but that has changed,” said Hustler TV president Michael Klein. “We were pushing it but then we stopped; now they’ve come to us to say how can we work together.”

Hustler TV has been partnering with MSOs to customize the front page of its Web site to those operators, “creating a specific splash page for the cable affiliate that meets their comfort level and need so that they can have their own customizable front page to Hustler.com,” Klein said. He added that any revenue from customers who sign up for Hustler through the offering goes to the operator.

Additionally, there are promotions such as one in which a cable operator gives away a chunk of time on HustlerLive.com (a live cam site) when someone buys a Hustler TV movie — and if that customer buys more minutes on the site, then the cable operator gets a piece of that revenue.

As a result, Hustler’s Internet department is expanding — and growing increasingly ambitious.

“There used to be just two people in the building and we outsourced everything,” said LFP Internet Group vice president Brad Eells, who joined the company three years ago. “Slowly we have taken one function at a time and brought it in house.”

The group recently brought video-on-demand and live chat functions in house, as well as software development and programming.

In addition to containing costs, handling matters in-house provides “flexibility and immediacy, and it gives you subject matter expertise — these things are not so mysterious anymore.” And since any outside partner is likely juggling numerous other accounts, they are typically only reactive to problems, Eells added, “not proactively saying, 'Here’s something we can do to make your system work better.’”

The Web not only needs more programming in specific genres than a DVD retailer or the Hustler TV networks, it also demands different production values. “If you have mood lighting and shoot from halfway across the room, that might work on television,” Eells said. “But on the computer screen, everything needs to be much bigger and lit much brighter.”

Hustler’s Web site also needs some promotional material that can run without age verification so they can film partially clothed spots tailored to them. To satisfy those needs, there is now an increasing amount of production being done just for Hustler’s Internet group in its own studios. “Hustler Video is not a small boat to turn but everyone has been very cooperative,” Eells said.

While retailers hate seeing anything on the Internet before it hits the store, there are now three paths for Hustler content: traditional DVD material which is released to retailers then the network and the Web; a DVD release with single scenes released simultaneously online; and material produced just for the Internet that may or may not later be put on DVD.

That kind of multipronged effort is unlikely to happen at New Frontier Media, home of The Erotic Networks. President Ken Boenish said New Frontier wants to be the biggest and best in one arena.

“We are solely focused on television distribution,” he said, whether that be linear networks or video on demand.

Still, TEN has its own Web site, which offers adult DVD viewing for a membership fee. And, Boenish added, “we have something in development to help our distribution partners but cannot talk about that publicly.”

Meanwhile, Playboy is re-launching its Web site in March but would not reveal any details of its plans in advance.

The next logical step for original content is the handheld or mobile arena. But Boenish said that, while New Frontier does offer some content outside the United States (mostly in the United Kingdom, Western Europe and Latin America), most domestic providers are “really reluctant to embrace adult. It really hasn’t progressed at all.”

While New Frontier does offer shots of bikini-clad models and other glamour photos domestically on the platform, Playboy has gone one step further offering nudity-free reality fare. (Playboy’s digital executives declined to discuss details in the context of an article about adult content.)

Klein ackowledged that Hustler TV video clips used on mobile in Europe are not translating here yet. But some issues revolving around age verification are being resolved by new technologies and “more phone carriers are becoming more open-minded,” he added.

“It’s getting there,” Klein said.

September